Ron Milone is the director of the TPB’s travel forecasting program. After 20 plus years of routine commuting, he participated in Bike to Work Day for the first time ever on Friday, May 20, 2016, riding 18 miles from his home in Rockville to the COG offices in NoMa.
Everything was set. The sun was out and the tires were pumped. For the very first time ever, I began my personal bike-to-work journey on Bike-to-Work Day. I hit the road at 6:30 AM hoping to get to work in time for my meeting scheduled for 9:30. Would I make it?
The short answer is: yes.
I’m happy to report my bike commute to downtown DC (and back home) was accomplished with no hitches. It was actually easier than I thought it would be, thanks in large part to the weather on the morning of May 20: sunny, dry and comfortable cool. I couldn’t have asked for a better morning to bike.
Biking to work left me with several distinctive impressions. It was exhilarating, even liberating, to just be doing something different. Every day, my commute consists of the same ritual behavior. I get into my car, drive five miles to my MARC commuter rail station and ride 20 minutes to Union Station and walk a few blocks to work. Biking to work allowed me the opportunity to break the regular commuting grind and explore a new travelling experience as well as a fitness challenge. As the train service at my station is limited, the pressure to “make the next train” can be stressful at times, particularly when I’m running late and traffic is heavy. The biking experience mercifully spared me of that stress.
Also, biking gave me a closer connection to my community and to the natural environment. As I normally drive to my commuter rail lot, I’m enclosed in the steel cocoon that is my car; separated and insulated from earthly elements and direct human contact. During my bike trip, I passed by on-coming bikers, joggers on the sidewalk, and people waiting at their bus stop. I can’t remember when I last said “good morning” to absolute strangers on the street, but that’s exactly what I said over and over again while on the bike.
My normal drive to the commuter rail lot is also accompanied with my constant riding companion: the radio. Like most residents of our region, I’m an information addict seeking to get the most current news as soon as possible. During my biking journey, the radio chatter was replaced by the real world- the wind, the warmth of the sun, the myriad of bird songs. Again, I can’t remember ever being aware of bird songs while trudging into work.
My 18-mile ride was apportioned almost equally among on-road and off-road sections. I am still a bit anxious about biking in traffic and I would consider this aspect as the single biggest downside of my biking experience. However, anxiousness about riding on the road can be managed so I don’t consider this downside as an insurmountable challenge.
Now for the big question: Am I ready to continue commuting by bike in the future? I’m not about to give up on my monthly transit pass just yet, but the experience of biking to work has gone a long way to offset the negative preconceptions I previously had regarding bike commuting.
To me, that’s what Bike-to-Work Day is all about: a demonstration of what’s possible.
See the video of Ron’s BTWD journey and read about how he decided to try bike commuting for the first time.