Life Without Wheels: Chronicle of a Car-Free Lifestyle
On my bicycle commute to work the other day, I realized the truth in the equation: bikes = smiles. And like Santa and his sleigh, a cyclist can spread the joy of the daily commute simply with a smile and a "good morning" or a smile and a nod or just a smile. 

Unlike my commute to work in LA, in which I shared the road with drivers, my commute to work in Missoula takes place mostly on a multi-use trail that follows the Clark Fork River. It's amazing for a few reasons:

  1. There are only a few places where I have to cross an actual street, and, for the most part, auto drivers are very courteous, patient, and polite. 
  2. Because it's a multi-use trail with very few street crossings, I can go as fast as I want. I can make it into work in 10 minutes (beating the bus) if I really want. Usually I enjoy a slower pace and take in the scenery and remind myself of all the wonderful things surrounding me--the mountains I get to hike after work, the sound of birds instead of cars, and, of course, the great feeling of just being on my bicycle. 
  3. It follows the windy Clark Fork River, and I always marvel at how I'm on my way to work and surrounded by nature, not pavement.
  4. So many people joining me in bicycling as LA, the cycling community feels small and large at the same time, but, as cyclists, we're definitely an anomaly. In Missoula, and with the university being such a center in the community, so many people bike to work and school like it's nothing. Cycling around town is just a no-brainer. (I mean, hell, the town is only like 5 miles wide.) I've never been to Amsterdam or Copenhagen, but coming from a place where the "war" between bikes and automobiles is so heated, Missoula really does feel like a cyclist's heaven. 

So riding my bike makes me smile. It's just fun. And I'm a little bit of an introverted person. I'm kind of loner and don't mind doing things on my own. (Yeah, I know that's hard for you all to believe, but it's true.) So I don't typically say "hi" to people I don't know. Except, when I'm on my bike, that tends to change. As I pass a pedestrian, with their head down and trudging along the trail, I ring my bell and pass on a "good morning!" as I ride by. Their face lights up as they smile, nod, maybe wave, sometimes even give a "good morning!" back at me. This happens all along the trail on the way to work. People running and looking miserable, people staring at their cell phones, the guy in a motorized wheel chair--I'm like Santa Clause, except instead of bringing gifts, I spread smiles. Smiles that started with a bike. And maybe, just maybe, I brightened that person's day and it didn't go to waste. 

So here's my equation:




Not everyone has such an inspiring ride to work though. And that's one reason I'm working to raise funds to support the U.S. Bicycle Route System. The tagline of the campaign is: Build It. Bike It. Be a Part of It.  
I won't go into all the details about what a U.S. Bicycle Route System is, but essentially it's a national network of bicycle routes--using existing infrastructure--that fills the gaps between cities, destinations like national and state parks, and connect state-to-state bicycle infrastructure. The goal is for routes to be designated by number by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and be signed, maintained, and even upgraded to accommodate bicyclist use. 

My goal is to raise $250, and I need your help to get there. Please consider donating just $10 today. AND, if you donate $25 or more by Sunday, you could win a sweet set of panniers from Ortlieb. Tell me that's not awesome. 


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