Life in the Bike Lane
Hello biking community- my name is Karen and I am contributing to DRBC by writing about my biking experiences. First, a little background on how I got started.
I started commuting by bike in college right here at UWL in the mid-nineties. Finding it easier to find a spot to park a bike than my VW, biking became second nature. I was fortunate enough to live close enough to campus for it to be a short commute. After college I hung up my bike and didn’t ride much for a few years until I discovered mountain biking at the Human Powered Trails. HPT is an amazing trail system that gives a rider of any skill level the opportunity to improve not only bike control and confidence, but also improve technical skills. (If you can jump a log on a trail, you can jump a curb in the city.) If you have not had the opportunity to try out HPT’s trails I encourage you to do so. You can check them out at humanpoweredtrails.com for this season’s info.
After spending many evenings and weekends biking at HPT I thought, why aren’t I biking around the city more? I frequented downtown businesses throughout the week and found parking frustrating. So I acquired an old mountain bike from a friend that I turned into a single speed and found that one gear is all you really need to get around the city. With a rear rack attached I found that hauling small loads was not only convenient, but a breeze to accomplish.
Once I had a commuter bike set up I started riding to work in fair weather. The first year I might have only averaged several days a month. Still a step forward as I was saving up to 16 miles a day by not driving, or about 3/4 gallon of gas for my ’97 Accord. I had gotten into the habit of driving to work, then home for lunch, and back to work, and then home again–about 4 miles each way. Driving to work is a 10-15 minute commute versus a more pleasant 25 minutes by bike.
I also found that the quickest way of getting from point A to B may not be the most pleasant. For my commute I could ride along Losey Blvd and Hwy 16 to work, but I find that riding through the heart of residential La Crosse, then through UWL campus, and finally through the marsh trail makes for a more pleasant, even if a little longer, commute.
Last year I biked 121 days to work, which is 24 work weeks or 6 months. Having acquired better cold-weather gear and rain gear this year, my goal is to bike at least 150 days. Something to remember when bike commuting is the rule of thumb that less is more. I have a small stash of clothes I keep at work to change into and carry a small trunk bag to carry necessities for each day. Such light needs are: wallet/ID, tube repair kit, change of shirt, and a simple lunch. Other safety necessities are: bike helmet, headlight, and taillight.
I hope to continue writing small articles for DRBC as well as a commuting log and encourage your comments and questions. I am excited to help DRBC promote and build a strong biking community in the La Crosse area. I encourage anyone who feels the same to join and promote this positive group.
Today is March 15th and my 11th day commuting this year. Only 139 more days to go…