Friday, November 30

Counting the Costs

The Curse of Winter Commuting

It's good that I'm leaving Denver as the commuting conditions become difficult. I've noticed ice forming on some of the lakes along my commute. And despite the unseasonable dry conditions it is almost December. While we may never see snow again the chances of bitter cold are pretty high.

Way back when, in December 2009, we decided to sell our second car and become a one-car family. That seems like it was so long ago. I've pedaled so many miles since then.

At first I was embracing a novelty. I faced bicycle commuting during the winter of '09-10 with naive bravado. That first cold season I drove quite a bit. I didn't hesitate to hesitate at the front door of our apartment in Lakewood, all dressed up in my bike garb, and then turn back into the warmth to grab my car keys.

When we moved to Arvada it was summer. I had no reasons to drive over riding, but by that next winter the kids had gone back to school (we'd been homeschooling) and Mandy returned to part-time work. The novel was replaced with the real. I became a dedicated full-time winter bicycle commuter in the '10-11 season.

I learned what it meant to ride when you didn't want to ride. I learned what it meant to suffer. And truthfully, I enjoyed that first winter. Not so much the '11-12 season. It was just painful. And thankfully there was much less snow last winter. Even so, I was not looking forward to another winter of riding in the cold and dark, plodding along when I didn't feel good, when my heart wasn't in it, when it seemed all motorists were out to kill me. I was losing my love for full-time year-round commuting.

I'm not saying it's bad. I'm not saying I wouldn't have gritted my teeth and continued on with grim stoicism. If I hadn't been facing this new career path I guess I would have just gone on as I had been. There had been no plans in the foreseeable future to buy a second car. Nothing was going to change our situation.

Come January I will be driving to and from work. Maybe once we settle into a place in Lexington near my new office I'll be able to overcome the practical hurdles and start working bike commuting back into my day. Initially it's just not going to be feasible. But once the opportunities begin to present themselves, please rest assured, I will choose the bike. I have all the tools and tricks I need to make bicycle commuting work in any environment, in any situation. It's something I've become good at.

On Down the Path

I kept applying for new jobs within easy commuting distance to our home in Arvada. Nothing was panning out. No interviews. Nothing. So I applied for this job 1,200 miles back the way we came from five years ago. I'm giving up a lot for this job. And I'll get to why I'm okay with that, but I just want to point out what this move is costing me. And to say nothing of the impact to my family...

I'm giving up a lifestyle I enjoy and can condone with no apologies. Going car-lite was one of the most positive things our family has ever done. It has changed our worldview, made us resilient, and has opened up all kinds of new possibilities in our lives. Just because I am giving up an easy opportunity for bike commuting does not mean we're going to stop riding our bikes for utility and fun. We'll always choose the bike when we can.

While I hate my current job, I do have a very bike-friendly workplace. There is a locker room with showers and covered outdoor bike parking though I've always been able to keep my bike in my cubicle. Yes, even the Ute and the Xtracycle. I'm giving that up.

I ride from a League of American Bicyclists bronze level bicycle friendly city into a gold level bicycle friendly city and then back at the end of the day. I can do the majority of my ride on a paved multi-use path and/or bike lanes. I see other cyclists commuting even on the worst days. There is a bike culture here. I'm giving that up.

This is the hard one...I can incorporate world class singletrack into my commute and "lose" only a few minutes to an hour. I can do 1,500 feet of climbing in the dirt before work on just about any given day if I plan ahead. And there's a lot of it, in various places around Golden, and there is a variety of types of trails. I'm giving that up.

Am I Crazy?!

You are obviously wondering why I'm giving this up. I'm still wondering why I'm giving this up, at least, on one hand I am.

In my new position I will bring my experiences—my knowledge, my background of always choosing the bike, my years of bike commuting—to the table. I'll hopefully be able to grow into my position, and grow my position into one where I can have some real influence on a region that is not as bike friendly, where there is not a strong bike culture, where people give you funny looks when you mention that you bike 10 miles to work one way each day. I'm hoping I'll be in a position to do some important work. I really believe I will. It might take time, maybe years, but I have the patience of Job.

I'm sacrificing some incredible things to work to bring the same types of things to a place that has fewer of them. And the time is ripe. There are lots of heartening things going on in my home state and in the region I'll be working. The right types of people are moving into influential positions. The mindset is changing, and the conditions are becoming optimal for amazing changes. I hope I can be right in the middle of it, and working to bring that all about. It's exciting, encouraging, and I'm finally finding the boost in my self-confidence I've needed for so long now.

In a way I'm giving up a lifestyle I love, but I hope in reality I'm just carrying the flame with me to a new (old) place. Hang with me, Dear Readers, if you will. I don't know exactly what we're going to see along this amazing journey, but that's all part of the experience, all included in the price of admission...


  1. Any change comes with adjustments (even if you're a person like me who likes change). I think you've weighed out the pros and cons and you're doing something that will be beneficial for you and your family. You'll find a way to work the cycling in, I'm quite sure, and who knows what will happen with the job over time? Maybe you'll be that bike commuter once again.

  2. I'm sure I will. I'm going to need to take it slow though. Don't want to rock the boat and cause undue stress to quickly ;)