Was that really a bike commuter? Or just someone out for a ride?
While bike commuting is big in many major cities, it hasn't really caught on everywhere. In Southwest Virginia, some members of the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club would like to see that change. The group has been busy trying to get the word out that Friday is the League of American Bicyclists' "Bike to Work Day" (May is Bike to Work month.)
The club wants to hear from riders who pedal to work on Friday, or any other time. They want to hear about the routes people take, commute distances and any other information riders are willing to share about their experiences.
I plan to participate, and not just because my truck is in the shop.
Bike commuting is a great thing. It's good for the environment. It can reduce traffic congestion. Of course, it's also a great way to get in shape.
So why isn't it a bigger deal? There are some obvious reasons.
Key among them is the traffic, or lack of it.
In large cities where bike commuting is popular, traffic is usually a nightmare. Often, a person on a bike can get to work faster than if he were driving. Bikers also don't have to worry about parking, which can be expensive, inconvenient or both.
The list of cities where cycling can cut your commute time includes not only those you'd expect, such as Seattle, San Francisco and Boston, but some you might not.
When I was in the Navy, I hated the stop-and-go, seven-mile drive from my Norfolk neighborhood to the base. During the morning commute, the trip took no less than 35 minutes, and often an hour. It took me about 25 minutes to ride to work on my bike. I avoided terminal road rage by riding my bike at least three times a week.
Commuters don't have that kind of incentive around here. Because traffic gridlock is not an issue in Roanoke and the region's other cities and towns, a ride will almost certainly take longer than a drive to work.
Distance is another challenge to commuting by bike. Many people live far from their workplace. A 15-minute car trip could take an hour or more by bike.
It doesn't help if your workplace doesn't have locker or shower facilities. If you've got to drop off and pick up kids from day care, school or other activities, that also makes biking to work tough.
Even with all those road blocks, there are a lot of us who could and probably should ride our bikes to work at least a day or two a week.
If you plan to ride to work Friday, or are a regular bike commuter, share your thoughts on our message boards.
Want to ride 100 miles? Check out our Century Challenge section