30 Days of Biking, Day 14: Driving

What?!

Yep. Driving.

Working in bike advocacy, especially in a statewide organization, involves a fair amount of driving — in this case, heading back to Seattle from Spokane today in an old Honda Odyssey loaded with leftover materials from the Spokane Bike Swap and the gear needed for my husband’s Ronde van Palouse race on Saturday.

Share the Road license plate personalized with WA BIKES, 2 bikes on roof rack, parked in Pioneer Square, Seattle

Our bikes went for a car ride from Seattle to Spokane and back again. Someday they’ll go without the car.

That makes 4 of the last 5 days that I’ve been in a car because of bicycling. Pretty inside out from my usual transportation practices; if not traveling for work I may go two weeks or more without getting into a private vehicle.

I appreciate the transportation our car provides when we need its capacity to haul a lot of stuff and/or a lot of people point to point over a long distance with timing flexibility. However, that load-hauling action and distance aren’t typical of my transportation needs. Most of the time I’m just moving myself and stuff I can easily carry in a pannier or two, with relatively short distances between stops.

This morning’s 30 Days of Biking ride provides yet another example of how easy bike transportation can be and an example of why driving can be the less convenient choice for short trips.

I loaded my work items (old-fashioned paper notebook, tablet, phone, and wallet) into the bags I keep preloaded with my lock, headlight, and other standard items. From our friend’s home where we’d stayed, I rolled downhill 2.2 miles (wheeee!) into downtown Spokane for an omelet at Madeleine’s Cafe & Patisserie (French pastries, ooh-la-la!), locking my bike to the rack right outside. No looking for a parking spot (and there weren’t any for cars in that block). No paying for parking. No delay in getting inside to coffee and breakfast.

After breakfast I walked out the door and got my vehicle. (How often does that happen with a car? Even if you park in a lot or garage by your destination, you have a hike getting from car to door and back again — something you need to factor into your thinking about how long it takes to drive somewhere and actually arrive.)

I rode the short 5-minute half-mile to my meeting at Empire Health Foundation with our new Spokane staff person, Kate Johnston. Again I parked in front and went straight inside.

Had I driven to my first destination and paid for parking, of course I could have walked the half-mile to my second stop and walked back after my meeting instead of relocating my vehicle. Raise your hands, all of you who would make that healthy choice instead of moving your car and hunting for a parking spot as close to the building as possible. Yeah, that’s what I thought. Plus, the meters in the heart of downtown Spokane are good for no more than two hours, so if I’d found convenient car parking I would have to had to move anyway. These types of issues are why I appreciate the flexibility bicycling gives me.

After my meeting my husband arrived with our car to load my bike so we could head to Seattle. He found a parking place right in front of the building. I have this theory that because I drive so seldom I have “bikema” (like karma but with bikes). It gives me extra parking magic so if I do actually need a place to put a car I can find one. That’s my reward for leaving those spots for other people the vast majority of the time.*

As we pulled out, I noticed my husband glancing back to make sure no one was coming up behind us — not just cars, but bicycles. We’re both more observant and aware as drivers thanks to our time in the saddle because we know how it feels when someone pulls out from the curb without taking a real, honest-to-goodness look for others.

Driving: Fine for what it’s good for, like getting two people, two bikes, two folding tables, a pop-up banner, and boxes full of bike maps, “I Bike Spokane” coasters and magnets, and WA Bikes jerseys across the state — a hassle if you’re running around with a typical workday batch of items and making multiple stops fairly close to each other.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you do much bike-related driving — going to race venues, taking the bikes on vacation to a place chosen for its great bicycling, driving as a volunteer for a big ride, other?
  • When you compare how long it takes to drive to where you’re going with how long it would take to ride your bike, do you factor in parking and walking time?
  • How do you think riding a bike has changed your driving?

*We have a bumper sticker for sale in our Pioneer Square storefront that reads, “If I’d biked today this parking spot would be yours.”

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