Sunday, March 16, 2008

Why Bike Transportation? Reason #3


Reason #10 – "Unrighteous Pride"
Reason #9 - The Environment
Reason #8 – Sense of Achievement
Reason #7 - Social Responsibility / Conservation
Reason #6 - A Feast for the Senses
Reason #5 - Independence and Self-Reliance
Reason #4 - Exercise and Physical Health

Reason #3 - Stress Relief / Mental Health

Bikers (the motorcycle kind) have a saying:

"You'll never see a bike parked out front of a therapist's office."

If that is true, it is even more true for pedaling bikers!

(By the way, it's not true for many motorcycle bikers. A lot of 'em are totally hung up about how much chrome their bike has, or whether the other guy's bike is cooler, or whether their "costume" looks the part, etc. A lot of 'em are more concerned about being seen riding their motorcycle, than about riding their motorcycle… know what I mean? You see some of that among bicyclists, but I don't run into it nearly so much.)

Owning and driving a car can be stressful. Consider:

There's the expense of owning and operating the car. As of 2004 – when gas was $1.83 – the AAA said it cost $8410/year to own a motor vehicle. (I stress more about money – or lack thereof – than pretty much anything else in my life, 'cept maybe my kids.)

Okay, Mr. or Ms. Motorist. You're up-to-date on your payments, you have $25 worth of gas in the tank, and your tires have most the tread left.

You begin your daily commute. You start an hour before you have to be to work, because it sometimes takes that long. Better safe than sorry.

Traffic is bad today! What? Is there an accident up ahead?

#%@&!! Gas is up another 8 cents! I knew I should have filled up yesterday, on the way home!

What's with this jackass who just passed on my right, and now wants me to let him into my lane?

And hey – what's that funny clunking sound coming from the transmission? I've never noticed that before…

Dang it! All the nearby parking spaces are already taken. I hate parking 4 blocks away! (And this spot is close to that high school – what if punks vandalize my car? I hate this! But I can't afford another parking ticket.)

I used to deal with that stuff… back in the previous century. I've felt all of those frustrations personally, back during the "car years." But I gave it up.

Let's shift gears.

People love their morning coffee. (My employer eliminated free coffee, 4 or 5 years back, to save thousands of dollars. There was a revolution – torches and pitchforks! Like back when the Russkies couldn't get their cigarettes, vodka, and toilet paper! The "free" coffee was quickly reinstated.)

Why do they like coffee? It elevates your heart rate. It makes you feel awake and alert.

Guess how you feel when you arrive at the office by bicycle? Your heart rate is elevated. You're breathing deeply (hopefully "green" air instead of "yellow" air), takin' in that oxygen. You feel awake and alert. But actually it's a better "quality" of alertness, because it doesn't seem artificial or jittery. (I won't argue the merits of coffee, but I will say this – it's better if you can live your life without a chemical dependency of any kind.)

Actually, scientists explain that exercise does produce natural chemicals in your body – endorphins and such – which have a positive effect on emotions and mental outlook.

When I ride my bike to work, it invigorates me, and charges my mental battery for the challenges of the day. When I ride my bike home, it allows me to pump away some stress, feel the sun (or rain) on my face, and truly enjoy a sense of freedom and independence that is lacking when you're sitting in stop-and-go traffic. (You'll notice in the car and truck TV commercials – which they spend billion$ on – they never show that shiny new car or truck idling in a traffic jam, or plodding down the Interstate.)

Do I ever stress on the bicycle? Occasionally somebody in a car (or somebody else on a bike) will do something unexpected and illegal that I have to compensate for. But I try to expect the unexpected, so the stress level is very manageable. (I've never felt "bicycle rage," far as I can remember.) And if the weather is truly nasty – heavy, consistent rain or triple-digit heat – it's obviously not as delightful as on that sunny, 70-degree day. But it's not really anything to stress over… you've just gotta suck-it-up and go. I s'pose I stress a bit when I get a flat tire, or when a spoke breaks. But that stress is mighty short-lived.

Let me put it this way. My bike commute is frequently my favorite activity of the day. I actually look forward to it. (I also love to drive, and to ride my motorcycle… but not in stop-and-go traffic! That is among my least favorite activities!)

Summary – driving a car, at least in traffic at drive-time, tends to create stress; riding a bike tends to relieve stress.

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