My adventure in LA bicycle commuting

15838526718_eddd18dea0_zTwo weeks ago, I got a wild hair up my ass to ride my bike to work. I’m no stranger to all the wonderful things a bike commute can do for the rider and the environment. However, my previous workplace was a mere five miles from home on a flat road with a big, fat bike lane the whole way. Piece of cake.

My new job is a whole different story. Since April, I’ve joined the throngs of people who sit in their cars for hours each day in bumper-to-bumper traffic from my humble San Fernando Valley home to my job on the west side of LA . I feel that it’s a complete waste of my time and is slowly sucking the life out of me. Not a fan. Super lame.

For months, I’d been contemplating trying out the journey on my road bike. I’ve been a cyclist for over 10 years now, having covered thousands of miles throughout southern and central California on two skinny tires. I can handle myself in traffic and felt ready for this challenge, despite the fact that my regular cycling has taken the back burner to trail running over the past year.

On a Wednesday morning, the urge took over. I pumped up my tires, tested my lights, and loaded up a backpack with clothes and lunch for the day.

Morning ride:

I hit the road at 8:30am. My work day starts at 10am and I wanted to give myself plenty of time for the ride and changing clothes once I got there. There was a lot of traffic to dodge, but I enjoyed this leg of the journey:

  • The first climb is a killer, but I gotta get over the hill sooner or later.
  • Fly by the Hollywood Bowl.
  • Right turn at Hollywood High School.
  • Fountain claims to let bikes use full lane, but drivers think otherwise.
  • West Hollywood bike lane! Sweet.
  • Exchanged stop light pleasantries with guy in truck.
  • Beverly Hills Hotel construction zone.
  • Weed dispensaries by the 405.
  • Welcome to Santa Monica, but you won’t be seeing the beach today.
  • Work.
  • Stats: 14 miles; 65 min
Evening ride:
My workday ends at 7pm, so by the time I changed back into my still sweaty cycling clothes, mounted my lights, and arranged the weight of my backpack just right, it was already 7:20. We had a bit of Fall weather that day, so it was chilly and somewhat windy going home. I took a slightly different route:
  • Dang, this all looks different in the dark.
  • Wait. There are TWO Santa Monica Blvds??
  • Hooray again for West Hollywood bike lanes!
  • Troubadour.
  • Hollywood streets are wicked bumpy. Getting tired.
  • Wait. There are TWO Cahuenga Blvds??
  • Why am I going 5 mph on this street that looks flat?
  • Spirit broken. Pulled over to gripe.
  • Back up the final hill! Stopped at the top to order a burger.
  • Flew down the hill, quick stop to pick up that burger.
  • Home safe and sound just before 9pm. Burger and hot shower on the menu.
  • Stats: 16 miles; 88 min

Overall, this was a good experience. But is it worth it? I’m already spending about 2 hours each day car commuting. Bike commuting bumped that up to about 2.5 hours (not including extra time to change clothes and freshen up at work). Am I willing to sacrifice even more of my time for this? Arg.

Positives:
  • Save money on gas & car maintenance.
  • One less car on the road.
  • Exercise!
  • Way more interesting/exciting than driving.
  • AM route took the same amount of time door-to-door as driving.
Negatives:
  • Danger! LA drivers can be impatient and aggressive, particularly towards cyclists.
  • PM route is in the dark and more uphill.
  • PM route took longer than driving home and was difficult at the end of my work day (at my standing desk).
  • A bit sweaty and less “put together” at work.
  • Can’t make evening plans after work.

The jury is out on whether I’ll do this on a regular basis (or ever again). The good news is that new opportunities for working closer to home continue to spring up!

(Image: ChrisBird)

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