Every working day, it’s the same thing. Get the kids to school, then off I go.
I mount the laptop pannier on the back rack and tie it down with a bungee for extra security. Left foot on the pedal, push, push, and bring the right leg over the bike seat in a long swing (or a more cautious forward move if I’m wearing a straight skirt). I ride off the curb with a bump-bump and make my way out of the throng of other parents leaving the school.
If the weather is good (and my definition of good weather is very loose), I take the southward path through Het Twiske, a local nature reserve. It’s a beautiful route. If the weather is really good and I have the time, I go north and take a longer route through ‘t Twiske. It’s a ride that pleases me in all seasons, with its bright waters and peaceful views.
If the weather is poor—rainy, snowing, or too bitterly windy—I take the narrow and bumpy cobbled road that runs straight from my village to Amsterdam Noord. But even this route, lacking bike lanes for a good half of its length, is attractive and safe.
The long route takes about half an hour. The medium one is a twenty minute ride. I can do the shortest in twelve minutes if I push.
I’ve been doing this for two and quarter years now. My daily commute averaged 15 km (9 miles) per day for the first year. Then we moved south within the village, and it’s now about 12 km (7 miles) daily. It isn’t a lot, but it does add up. Even with my insane socialist European vacation allowance, I’ve ridden about 5,300 km/3,300 miles since I started commuting by bike. That’s the distance between Augusta, Maine and Los Angeles, California.
I’ve ridden across the United States. Sheesh.
Biking to work has not turned me into a supermodel or superwoman. But I am in better cardiovascular shape than I have been in years, and the exercise and light have been useful in managing my SAD. And I arrive at work on an endorphin high; Monday mornings are really not what they were when I took the bus in Edinburgh.
But the best thing is what riding my bicycle does to my mental life. I used to read or study vocabulary on the bus. What I do when I bike is think. Sometimes I’ll tackle a complex work problem—the best object model for a set of testing plugins, for instance. Sometimes I’ll draft a blog post in my head. The spiral nature of Works and Days of Hands came to me on one such a ride. But more often, the realizations and ideas are subtler and less expressible, closer to wisdom than to knowledge.
When I was a teenager, I called my bike my seven-league boots. But now, I think, I’d consider it my jetpack: the transportation device of the future that’s changed the way I live my life.