Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Thank you letter to Smart Trips

2509 Huron Street
Bellingham, WA 98226
September 2, 2009

Dear Smart Trips,
Every couple of months I get a reward delivered to my house. It is not a van with a large card board check and balloons; it comes modestly in an envelope from Smart Trips. It started off as ice cream, then a t-shirt, bagels, and even a movie rental, all from my favorite local shops. These little treats have landed in my hands and put a smile on my face. Someone out there is recognizing the fact that I make active transportation trips here in Whatcom County. The latest reward made me stop and think that maybe I am making a difference by getting on my bike instead of getting in my car.
This most recent gift couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
I have always dreamed of being a “one car family,” my husband and I got rid of our second car this year. It has been a rather easy transition even considering we both work about 10 miles from our jobs. This is the first time that we have made a conscious choice to have one car and put effort forward to make it work. Living in the car centric culture that we do one car can be difficult, and I must admit a car of my own is still in the back of my mind. I was ready to go back to having my personal car. I justified it every way imaginable, the next thing I knew; I had convinced myself that I had to have my own car. Ironically when I got the mail that day there was a card from Smart Trips congratulating me for making at least 200 active transportation trips in a year. I took a step back in awe, I was getting formally acknowledged for commuting by bike. I am making a difference by simply choosing to get on my bike, something that brings me joy and happiness at no cost.
I have since then reconsidered my want for a car and it was the simple gesture from the people working at Smart Trips. Fifteen dollars to spend at the Farmers Market and a slice of cake kept the fire alive. I have put almost 4,000 miles on my bike in less than two years by simply ridding to work. The second car can wait, maybe indefinitely because I can do everything on my bike (even in a mini skirt) and the occasional carpool.
Most of the people I know travel by means other than the bicycle. For the most part, they're still automobiles. Automobile drivers. It's the norm, isn't it? In a society like ours--where more money is spent advertising automobiles than is spent on the entire national mass transit system, where everyone's background assumption equates travel with driving--it isn't easy to make the shift to bicycle commuting.
High gas prices. Expensive car payments. Traffic delays. Road rage. Expanding waistlines. There are many great reasons to consider traveling to work by bicycle. It's an effective, healthy, inexpensive, and fun alternative that is attracting more and more commuters all over the world. One or a combination of reasons got me hooked on the bike as my primary means of transportation to my place of work. Now that I have started commuting by bike, I have a hard time imaging anything besides “Orangette” (yes I am one of those people who has named my bike).
At first I would ride just a couple times a week and most often I would call my husband to give me a ride on his way home. Now, every morning I roll up my pant leg, put on my bright yellow jacket, load my pannier and hop on my bike. I usually don’t consider getting in a car for work, it doesn’t even sound attractive anymore. The bike ride to work is the perfect way to start the day and get around town. It wasn’t always like this. What keeps me biking 11 miles work and then another 11 miles home everyday is simple.
Like so many other bike commuters the bike simple replaces or supplements the car. Getting on my bike is a habit, I am programmed to get on my bike rather than getting in the car, I don’t even think twice about it. I get exercise, fresh air, make snappy shortcuts, ride through grass and get home on trails and not stuck in intersections or busy roads. I know the other commuters on my route by first name and wave at them everyday. We are going to stay a one car family, avoiding all the costs associated with owning a second car. As I get more accustomed to riding I realize just as convenient biking is and as usually takes the same or less time as driving.
I am making a difference in my life and the people around me. The best way is to show is by action. If people see me, complete strangers, my coworkers and friends who listen to me get excited and praise commuting by bike sees me out on the roads, they may consider what it would be like to make less car trips. Someone may realize that I am going all the same places by bike as by car; soon they try it and experience just how easy it is. Slowly, one person at a time, we can make a difference.
Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to making this a healthier community for everyone.
Michelle Stiles

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