15 March 2011

Rain day #10

I went to bed last night with an expectation of seeing rain in the morning. I wasn't disappointed.

The rain was fairly light, but enough to keep me from riding on slick paths. There were only a couple of problems: my Mazda MPV is still at work from my change in transportation mode yesterday, and Chuck's Chrylser Concorde won't start because of a low battery, since it has been idled while he is wintering in Palm Springs. And I still would like to have my trusty steed (the Trek 750 crossover mountain bike) at work, just in case the skies clear by late afternoon.

But all is not lost. A coworker, Doug Tomlinson, lives within a mile of me, drives his Jeep to work, and consistently so at 7:00 a.m. It is now 6:45. The decision has come. I call Doug to see if I have caught him between coffee and car. And, as true to schedule as Phileas Fogg, he will be ready to leave in a few—exactly 14—minutes.

I hurry through preparations that normally take me at least 45 minutes: close down the kitchen, take Howard out for his "hurry-up," do my own hurry-up, change from lounging clothes to work clothes, floss and brush my teeth, pull together cycling clothes into my backpack, strap on my RoadID, and assure that I have packed the essentials of cellphone, wallet, pocket money, and unread sections of the Wall Street Journal. I'll decide at work if I need to shower at some point, whether early in the day or at lunch. —The gym at work provides a possibility of fitting in a workout if rain continues and a bike commute home is unlikely.

At 7:01, with the added one minute to account for the side trip 5 blocks southwest of Salem, Doug is in my drive. I lock up the house, roll my bike to his car, and help load it in. Another workday begins.

Allow for Flexibility
One aspect of commuting by bike is weather, which can change during the day at work. And experience shows that using the weather forecasts is never so reliable that you can make exact plans for biking or driving. Another aspect of bike commuting is the length of usable daylight for the commutes at either end of a workday of 8 to 10 hours. (Yes, sometimes I have to work a long day. I am used to that. Sometimes I can even control that, by scheduling the long days to fit planned project deliveries or goals.)

I've developed a comfortable habit of leaving my car at work overnight, when that suits my needs for commuting by bike or car. The workplace provides a secure parking lot with lights and the possibility that someone might be viewing the lots at almost any time of day. The security guards on duty throughout the evening and night make an occasional round at the entrances and peer out into the parking lots.

In the Spring and Fall, when the daylight hours are short, I typically drive one way, with my bike packed inside the minivan, and bike the opposite direction each day—Friday excepted. The schedule works out very well for getting the car home for weekend use.

Monday: drive to work, bike home
Tuesday: bike to work, drive home
Wednesday: drive to work, bike home
Thursday: bike to work, drive home
Friday: drive to work, drive home OR bike to work, bike home

I use a modification of this schedule for rain days or for days when the forecast predicts rain. That is, if I am deciding on the mode of transportation where I have both bike and car to choose from.

But sometimes I'm stuck with actual rain while I'm at home or at work with the bike and without the car. That's when alternative modes of transportation can come into play. There's my coworker Doug, there's the RTA (Regional Transit Authority), and there's actually riding in the rain. So far, I've never used the RTA, although many of its buses are equipped with a front rack that can hold several bikes. I've been told the entire bus trip takes an hour, including the walk from the last bus stop to the office in Research Park. That walk from the bus stop says to me: "You'll get wet even when you take the bus." I prefer to ride in the rain instead of taking that wet walk from the bus stop. After all, I can shower and change into clean, dry clothes in the locker room.