My Awesome Bicycle Commute

With Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee last week wreaking havoc on Philadelphia, including its roadways and bike trails, my bicycle commute has been more of an adventure than usual.  I found myself wishing I could look up the status of the trails online before determining my route to work.  And out of that desire was born my idea to start this blog, where I’ll post various obstacles along my commute that others may want to watch out for if they too use the trails.  Of course, I won’t be able to direct everyone to their best bicycle route to work each day, but I do hope that this blog will be a place where I can write about my experiences commuting to work by bicycle and perhaps even inspire others to consider biking to work in Philly and elsewhere.

The view from the trail along West River Drive, looking toward the museum and Water Works, 2 days after Tropical Storm Lee

Flooded trail along West River Drive

Flood along the east side of the Schuylkill River, two days after Tropical Storm Lee

The Schuylkill River, from Falls Bridge two days after Tropical Storm Lee

While these last few weeks, due to weather, have been more of an adventure than usual—with feet of mud to get through, flooded trails, downed trees and detours—my bike commute is always an adventure.  Some days it is an adventure to get past the angry goose, or the swerving drunk cyclist, or the lady running with her crazy dog on a 20-foot leash; some days it is the snow, the ice, the heat, or the rain; some days it is crazed by my own delusion that I, the lady with the panniers carrying my laptop and freshly-pumped breast milk, should be racing the spandexed man on his carbon fiber bicycle that just passed me; some days it is the meditation I fall into as a ride past blooming daffodils, goslings, fisherman, chipmunks, a creek, a river, statue gardens and more, all within a city; so you see, it is always an adventure.

Almost 5 years ago, my husband and I, who work at the University of Pennsylvania, moved from West Philly to Mt. Airy in Northwestern Philadelphia, about 10 miles from campus.  Slowly, over time, I started bicycling in to work, first once or twice a week, then a few times, then about 2 ½ years ago, I ditched my SEPTA train pass and started biking to work and back every day.  I tried to convince my husband to do it with me, but he initially insisted he was more productive getting work done on the train and didn’t want to show up sweaty at work.  Then about 3 months later he picked up his helmet, jumped on his bike and followed me in.  When about a month later I asked him what had changed his mind, he replied, “You just always looked so happy.”

Happy, indeed.  I love my job, but I half-joke that the very best part of my job is that I commute by bicycle.  It is hard for me to pinpoint what, exactly, makes it so great, because there is so much about it I love. I love that for 20 miles each day I am able to feel purposeful and focused, yet can allow my mind to wander.  I love that I face the elements each day, but in the confines of relatively safe and beautiful trails.  I love that if I am in a hurry, I get a better workout, not a speeding ticket. I love that my commute time is not dependent on how well the trains are running or how many cars are traveling the same route. I love that throughout the seasons I see my commute change its shape and color.  Perhaps what I love most is that it keeps my husband’s bod, and in particular his rear end, in such great shape.  (I love that it keeps me in shape too, but due to some evil ancestor who cursed me with her flat-butted physique, it would take a plastic surgeon to give my rear a shape that turns heads.)

Here are some scenes from my commute:

Great outcrop along the trail!

A tributary to the Wissahickon Creek

The bridge near Forbidden Drive and Lincoln Drive, along the Wissahickon

Along the Wissahickon Creek

Schuylkill River Trail

The trail...

From the Schuylkill River Trail

Statues

Sculpture Garden along the trail

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, viewed from my commute

Near the art museum and Waterworks

View of Center City from the trail

Along Schuylkill River trail, looking west

Almost there!

Campus

So, stay tuned for more.  Some topics I hope to include:

The status of the trails when I bike in during/after  severe weather

Cycling to work: good for you, good for the environment

Teaching your children how to safely use a multi-use recreation trail

The geology of my bike commute

Is it safe to commute by bicycle along the Wissahickon Creek and Schuylkill River?

Cycling pregnant

Tips for combining bicycle commuting and school drop-offs: coordinating a family of bicycle commuters

Tips for buying a bicycle for your commute

Why drivers should love cyclists

Tips for looking professional (ok, presentable) at work after a bike commute

Tips for female bike commuters

Trail-safety tips for the cyclist, runner, and walker

The commute “race”

The logistics of cycling from Northwest Philadelphia into Center City and West Philadelphia

And more…

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