Biking instead of driving was a liberating decision

  • Updated: July 8, 2008 - 12:09 AM

A couple of weeks ago our second vehicle died. We had gotten a lot out of our 1991 Honda Civic, and we were probably on borrowed time.

It was a great opportunity for me and my wife to practice moving gracefully with this unexpected turn, rather than focusing on frustration or helplessness. We are working hard to pay off some old debt, and we just created a pretty aggressive 13-month plan to erase our credit card debt -- so it was tempting to move into a negative reaction. I reminded myself that something positive will be found by this experience, if I just pay attention.

A couple of days before the car stopped running, I rode my bike to work for the first time. It's an 8-mile stretch from Minneapolis to Minnetonka, and it's mostly on a beautiful bike path well off the road. Still, I had made many excuses as to why I wouldn't commit to this means of transportation consistently: How will I carry my lunch to and from work? What if I sweat too much? What if it rains? And on and on. Plus there is a stretch on Shady Oak Road with no path and a tiny shoulder which is quite dangerous.

Well, being with only one car, I decided to figure out the bike routine, at least temporarily. Carrying my lunch was a minor detail. It's not that hot in the morning, plus I figured out our office building has a shower that I can use if need be. It rarely rains during the actual commute (but I did use the gas money I've saved over the last two weeks to invest in a nice rain jacket for such occasions).

And, once I committed to biking, I found alternate routes to get to work, and I now have less than 1 mile on the actual road; the rest is bike paths, including a path that leads right up to my office. I connect with it in Hopkins, and it's a beautiful stretch in the woods, way away from traffic.

This whole experience has become an incredible gift for me and my wife. She has been inspired to bike to her job, her yoga class, and some light grocery shopping to the co-op and Trader Joe's. Some days we don't even bother getting into our one car.

As a matter of fact, we had a conversation about how we could be without any vehicles. This would be inconvenient here in Minneapolis during the winter, but we are planning a move to Asheville, N.C., in the next 18 months, and it would probably work just fine in the milder climate.

And let me tell you, that was a most liberating conversation. Being without a vehicle: no car payments, no insurance, no gas, no maintenance. Use the money saved to rent a car on occasion when you want to get away for a weekend, invest in your bike and pay the pennies it takes to ride the bus. It has given me a whole new perspective.

So now I am biking 80 miles a week, I am in nature for at least an hour and a half five days a week, and I feel great!

We're on the fence about whether we'll want a second car during the winter, but we figure we have a few months to figure that out. Meanwhile, we're saving about $150 a month on gas, we'll be dropping our insurance, and I'm about to sell the Honda for $275 on Craigslist.

Just like that, we are ahead on our debt-paying plan.

I am inspired. Inspired to be more self sufficient. Inspired to live in a smaller community in downtown. Inspired to spend less. Inspired to waste less. Inspired to be more connected.

Bryan Bertsch, a Minneapolis resident, is a meditation coach. He has a website and blog at www.bryanbertsch.com.

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