Rachel Mathiowetz, Program Assistant, reflects on JVC Northwest’s values of simple living and ecological justice through her first bike commuting experience.
Julia Peters, Lead Area Director, announced in late August, “September is BIKE COMMUTE CHALLENGE month! Let’s do it!” Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s Bike Commute Challenge happens every September in Portland, encouraging employees to commute to work by bike and have the highest percentage of bicycle commutes in order to win prizes, reduce the amount of CO2 in the air, and encourage a healthy lifestyle.
I had never bike commuted before, but since moving to Portland a year ago, and especially since working at JVC Northwest where a high percentage of the staff commutes by bike, I have wanted to give it a try. It all starts out with the thought, then the push to actually do it. My push was the bike commute challenge.
On the first day of the challenge, I hopped on my fiancés heavy, old bike he purchased from a thrift store, and finally got over the anxiety of trying something new. I was amazed at how close I felt to the road, to my environment, and the neighborhoods I biked through. I could feel the early morning air on my face and hear the sounds of Portland waking up. I also felt my lack of stamina as I rode on roads that never seemed to have an incline before and suddenly felt longer than I remembered. Of course, I realized that biking on a road and driving on a road are two very different experiences!
By the time I got to work, after biking two miles to the MAX train station, a forty minute MAX ride, and another two mile bike ride to the JVC Northwest office, I was sweaty, out of breath, and my legs felt like jelly, but I felt incredible knowing I completed my first bike commute to work. I had an energy and alertness throughout the day from the exercise that a person can’t get from coffee alone!
Since then, I definitely have not bike commuted every day—I dealt with my first flat tire and had my first lesson in bike maintenance. However, I’m so thankful for the extra push and inspiration from the Bike Commute Challenge and Julia’s enthusiasm. I want to continue a personal challenge to bike commute and to learn more about bike maintenance. For those who don’t live in Portland, it may not be as easy to find the resources you need for an easy commute. Your town may not have bike lanes, and vehicles may not be used to watching for bikers. It’s important to try it anyway, though. There’s no need to have the most expensive gear, you can use local resources like bike co-ops to find inexpensive bikes and to learn about maintenance, and there are many ways to bike safely in traffic and to make yourself seen. So, push yourself to try it, even just once! “Let’s do it!”
With only three days left of the challenge, team Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest has logged a total of:
101 trips, 463.4 miles, 39.8% commute rate
For further, somewhat comical inspiration, see our biking videos on YouTube.