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Kirby: When biking to work is too much work

Published May 11, 2014 4:50 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

An increasing number of Utahns are commuting to work on bicycles. I'm evenly divided between admiring their environmental consciousness and pitying their lunacy.

Riding a bike to and from work is certainly healthier. It's a good way to improve your cardiovascular health, lose weight and look better. Unless you get whacked by traffic.

I commuted on a bicycle for a couple of years. With the exception of an occasional bus or taxi ride, I went everywhere on bicycle.

Being an LDS missionary at the time, I expected a certain amount of heavenly protection. By the end of my first year, I had been bitten by a dozen dogs, knocked down by a cow, hit by a 1937 Citroen and pummeled with produce from passing trucks.

That's the short list of bike incidents in which the Lord may have spared my life but certainly not my skin, pride, suit pants or any particular sense of well-being. I started to get suspicious.

Then I hit a drunk pedestrian in the dark who furiously hurled my bike into a nearby river. After that it was hard to be appreciative of the Holy Ghost, who should have at least warned the drunk if not me.

But all that bike riding left me in good shape at the end of my mission. I recall being tough and fit when I came home. The scars and memories have faded. Maybe that's why I'm thinking about bike commuting again.

Not everyone can commute by bicycle. For some it's a question of distance. If you live in Orem but work in Dugway, you might want to give bike commuting a rethink.

Then there are the physical aspects. I don't want to get too crass here, so perhaps a test is in order.

If you sit on a bicycle and the seat completely disappears between your hams, you might need to gradually work up to a commute longer than across the street.

It's 28 miles from my house in Herriman to The Gateway. In my truck that works out to be 33 minutes or the first seven tracks on Led Zeppelin II.

But that's if I use the freeway and traffic behaves, which it never does. Then there's the safety issue. Not only is riding a bicycle on the freeway illegal, it's idiotically suicidal as well.

If people are plowing their cars into the back ends of semi-trucks because they're busy texting, what makes you think they'll notice a guy on a bike with a lunch bucket for a helmet?

If I did ride, I would have to stick to back roads. Even then it would take about four hours to get from my house to the newsroom on a bicycle, and double that if I pushed it most of the way.

Sometimes I ride TRAX when I go into the office. It takes about an hour. That's longer than driving, but it's ecologically more sound. Still, improved air quality depends entirely on who you're sitting next to.

I commute to work online. My office is right across the hall. I might have to dodge a visiting grandkid or trip over a dog on the way, but that's nothing to what I regularly encounter on the freeway or TRAX.

But that's not the reason I won't start commuting by bike. It's practicality. If the Lord wouldn't protect me in South America while I was serving a mission on a bike, there's no way he'll let me get to The Salt Lake Tribune on one.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.