May is Bike Month: It's easy once it's easy

“Wanna have a beer?”

At 7:44 PM, on Friday night, when it looked as though I would spend the evening excavating my garage, that text message popped into my phone from my friend Chuck Cheesman.

Later that same minute, I replied that I indeed would like to have a beer.

Beer InvitationAnd during that minute before I sent my reply, these logistics popped into my mind like a three-point plan that had been waiting for years to be executed:

  1. Remove my nice bike headlight from the handlebars of my commuter bike. (It’s a Light and Motion Urban 500 which removes and attaches easily. And, actually, it’s my wife’s bike.)
  2. Attach the light to my helmet, (The helmet mount came with the light, and I just keep it on the helmet, as you may recall.)
  3. Take the folding bike so it’s easy to throw into Chuck’s car in case he wants to give me a ride home.

The simple plan came together in my mind so spontaneously, and I was already prepared. I didn’t wonder where my gear was, or if it was in working condition, or how I was going to pull off this nutty idea of biking somewhere on short notice. I killed a few more minutes on the computer machine before grabbing my jacket and heading to my destination, Hops on Birch — which is about one-and-a-half miles from my home.

As I was pedaling toward Chuck and beer, it occurred to me how this bike stuff has become second nature to me. New bike commuters and other want-to-use-their-car-less types can be daunted by a simple expedition like this because it takes awhile to acquire both the habits and the equipment.

I like to say that owning a car, and having one in your lifestyle is a pain in the ass — it’s just the pain in the ass that most people are used to. For a habitual car user, it would have been a different three-point plan that came so naturally to mind.

My instinctive plan also ruled out the need for a backpack, or panniers, or a bike trailer — all equipment that I have ready go had Chuck asked me instead to, I don’t know, haul firewood or something. Attaching any or all of those accessories would have added about two minutes to my departure.

Chuck Cheesman: Imagining Dancers
I'm named in the liner notes 'cause I'm special.

Chuck and his wife are pretty dang green. They spent a gazillion dollars retrofitting their house with solar panels, in-floor heat, and other upgrades. They have a hybrid car too.

Having made all of these investments, he is now entering the next frontier: changing from a set of habits where the car is the default choice for mobility, to another set of habits where he reaches for the car keys only when he’s run out of reasonable alternatives. (I’m not 100% sure that’s his goal, but I’m going to act as though it is.)

Chuck is professional musician, a songwriter and guitarist, so his workplace is mostly his home. When he commutes, it’s to gigs — performances, lessons, etc. His transportation needs vary from day to day, as well as his cargo carrying requirements. But at least he’s thinking about it. He has a decent bike. That’s a start.

National Bike Month  is for guys like Chuck; people who don’t need a whole bunch of convincing. It’s not for twisting the arms of die-hard motorists. Some people just need a little motivation, or logistical support. There are many Web pages that tell someone like Chuck how to get into bike commuting. (I understand there’s a whole Web site about it.) But the personal support and tips from a friend are the kind of thing that makes the experiment seem… less experimental, and more of a proven achievable goal.

The cover of Chuck’s most recent CD shows a disused car — which warms my heart.

So who is your Chuck?

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