Next up in the Commuting Series is Jon Fontenot. His commute is 14 miles each way from the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas to Irving to the north-west. You can read other entries in this series here and here.
It’s 5:30am and I’m awake and I’m about to ride 14 miles to work. My clothes are packed in one of those travel pack things. My messenger bag is loaded with my work wear, lunch, and repair/flat kit. I am caffeinated and excited to see what the day will bring.
This all started about 15 years ago. I had walked to a bar to have drinks with friends. I was just getting into the night when a friend informed me that there was trouble at my home; a drunk driver had smashed into my car. So began my experience of bicycle commuting. I began with a 3-mile ride into work. I eventually move up to a 5-mile commute. I felt pretty comfortable riding unless the weather went either too far south or north. However, it took me a few years to get the gear I needed to get over the weather.
First things you will need if you are going to commute through the year/all weather: water resistant/proof coat and pants, seal-line socks (water proof hiking socks), shoe toe covers, base layer, soft shell, summer/spring/winter gloves, knee warmers, full leg warmers, and a good pair of shorts/knickers (I prefer soccer shorts and a pair of Sheila Moon knickers).
Finally, you will need lights. Riding early in the morning and late at night I want all the people on the road to see me. Having been hit by a car once and more close calls then I care to relive, I decided one taillight was not enough. I now rock one light on the bikes seat post, one on the rear hub, one on my bag, and one on my helmet. I have just the one headlight and that’s really all you need. For years I had a basic 150 lumens light but I - finally - ponied up and purchased a 1000 lumen light and it is worth every penny I spent.
So why don’t you commute? Most people I speak with say the same things when I ask why they don’t commute by bike when I know they would love to. “It would take too long.” “Work is too far away for me to bike everyday.” “There is no good way to safely get to work.” Each of these excuses is just bologna.
“It would take too long.”: Most people spend around 24 minutes driving to work. I spend 1 hour cycling to work and my workout is included, so I don’t need a gym membership nor do I have to spend an hour at the gym.
The view from Union Station when
I use to combine my bike ride with the train.
“Work is too far away for me to bike everyday.”: Not everyone can jump on a bike and start commuting 14 miles to work. I didn’t think I could do it at first so I combined my bike ride with a train ride. This gave me a quite time in the morning to eat breakfast, read, and still get a good 5-mile bike ride in. Most everyone can ride a bike for 5 miles. Then when the train tickets went up I decided to save a few bucks and see if I could ride all the way and found it wasn’t that much harder.
“There is no good way to safely ride to work.”: Look at a map and drive around those back/residential roads you always ignore. It took me a few tries to hone my route but hone it I did and now have just about the perfect route.
So why commute? I must say that commuting changed my outlook at work for the better. I am perkier, awake, energized, and feel better when I commute to work. My students respond to this and that always makes work easier. Happy students = happy teacher. The complements from coworkers don’t hurt either. They boost my self-esteem and that in turn helps me out mentally to help out those “more difficult” students.
I love riding for the views just as much and the health. My commute takes me through Kessler Park with those great old Tudor homes, through the industrial area on Singleton and Irving Boulevard, across the Trinity River (twice), and through the poverty-ridden areas of West Dallas. I love each of these segments.
|My view from the Trinity River bottoms.|
I love seeing the areas where others work and saying “Good morning”. I love that I get to see a lot of the good that occurs in areas of the city that most people think is so dangerous. My favorite though is riding over the river. Seeing the sun popping up over the Dallas skyline, the river filled with fog, and the animals that make the bottoms their home brightens my day that no amount of billboard ads could. By using my bike to get around and run most errands I now know the city better than I ever would have and have discovers pockets that most major thoroughfares wouldn’t have taken me through if I was driving.
I appreciate the weather and the changes in it more than I ever would have in the minute it takes me to walk from my car to the door at work. I don’t have proof of this but I also feel that I don’t get as sick as much as I use to.
The view of Dallas from the Westmoreland bridge.
It you don’t believe me that it will better your life, try it just once. I’m confident that you will absolutely love it.
|The author Jon Fontenot|
at Mile 98 at the HHH.