My Secret to a Relaxed and Pleasant Bicycle Commute

It has been said that you might not always get what you want, but you do always get what you expect. I doubt that it’s true in all cases, but I can say with certainty that you will experience the commute you expect.

Something fun to see when biking to work
Expecting the best when riding to work will make you safer and less stressed. Photo by Eva Prokop.

A few months ago, I was talking with neighbor who bikes to work everyday. As he showed me his safety equipment, (multiple lights, reflectors, pepper spray, and an air horn), I was impressed and asked how often he uses these things. “Almost every day,” he replied. “I fill my airhorn bottle each morning and it is empty by the time I get home.” He went on to describe in detail his many scary and dangerous interactions with cars, dogs, etc.

After considering that I had commuted many more miles than my friend without ever getting hit (and having only two incidents that could be considered close calls), I was surprised to find myself thinking: “What am I doing wrong?”

Why did my friend have all these compelling stories and terrifying experiences while I did not? The answer: he expects to have a rough and dangerous commute and I don’t.

Am I saying that mere positive thinking will prevent you from being the hood ornament of a Hummer or that convincing yourself that a rainstorm is pleasant will keep you dry? Of course not. What I am saying is that we love to be right, and if we believe that our commute is dangerous, we will find (or even create) evidence to support that belief.

Given that we have been told (and perhaps even boasted)  that biking to work is hard and dangerous, how can we obtain or retain positive expectations about our commute? I suggest three tools.

1. Be Realistic

Think honestly about the intentions and motivations of those with whom you are sharing your commute. You don’t get up in the morning thinking “Today, I want to kill or injure somebody,” or “I really want to harass or scare a stranger today” and neither does anyone else … except maybe this guy.

Most of your fellow car-bound commuters are just too busy trying to get to work themselves (so they can pay for that car) to give you more than a passing thought. They are not out to get you.

2. Remember Why You Chose To Bike To Work

Unlike so many people who just fell into a mode of commuting, you made a conscious choice. You have weighed the options and decided that biking works best for you. Remembering the reasons for your choice empowers you to see the benefits, beauties, and advantages or riding a bike to work.

3. Be Prepared

I don’t expect to get hit by a car, but I am also very careful in traffic, ride defensively, and carry pen and paper to collect information and statements. I don’t expect to have a flat tire, but I carry patches and a pump. I don’t expect to get stuck, but I carry bus fare. When you know that you are prepared to handle the bad things that might happen, you can enjoy the good things that will happen.

These tools are not for Pollyannas (they always have a good commute), they are for regular people who get tired, cranky, and wet. However, because we get what we focus on consistently, expecting a good commute has real power to improve our lives.

Question: What do you expect to happen on your commute. Has it happened?

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