Just doing my part

to help the environment. I think. Maybe not.

Sun announced a ‘Bike to work’ campaign last month, with a promotion that if you spent at least 1600 minutes commuting to/from work on a bike from mid-May to early August, you would be entered into a drawing with various prizes. There is a web site for tracking one’s time. So given that I have been bored with my running lately, and have had a sore foot for a while, I thought this would be a great opportunity to cross-train, still get my exercise in, and help the environment. While I think the first two are clearly true, I am not so sure about the third even though I want it to be true. Here is my story.

As you may know, New England is not very bike-friendly with their roads. In fact, it is downright inhospitable! There are NO bike lanes anywhere, the edges of the road are very narrow and dissolve into dirt and broken up tar and holes. There is trash and broken glass, mailboxes sticking out, high curbs that your pedal can catch on, and so forth. I knew all this. Still, I had good luck in the past by never having a breakdown on the roads. Until now that is.

My very first day of trying this, on the ride in I hit a nail about a mile from work. This was no ordinary nail. I could tell right away from the “pop” sounds and the click-click-click it made as I continued on to try to get as far as I could before going flat. And flat it went!

Check this one out:

Bike tire nail

I somehow forgot my patch kit but as it turned out it did not matter. There was no patching this puppy. There were multiple stab wounds as the nail went in one end and out the other – several times. Fortunately I was close enough to just walk it to work. Then I needed a ride home later so someone had to drive to/from work anyway. In our SUV since it needed to fit the bike. then I had to drive to the bike shop, wasting more gas and polluting the air. Then I bought two inner tubes, wasting even more natural resources. So that event was a definite negative impact.

The next two trips were uneventful, which mostly made up for the earlier gaff. The third time it was drizzly in the morning but expected to clear. I waited as long as I could, but it did not get better so I went. There was enough water on the roads to kick up a steady stream of dirty water both going in and coming home. My shirt and backpack were loaded with mud and greasy black scum. It even soaked through to my underwear! Everything was a mess. This meant I had to soak and scrub my clothes and accessories when I got home using hot water (+ gas to heat it), OxiClean, soap, and other environmentally impacting activities and resources. Another negative impact.

So far I think I am barely breaking even when it comes to helping the environment. I can see that it will not be the big win it is cracked up to be. I expect to come out ahead, but not by much. Too many things can go wrong.

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