The bike path in September is like the gym in January

Single red maple leaf isolated on white.

And I’m trying to be supportive.

If you’re a person into fitness and physical activity, you likely get competing feelings when lots of people want to do what you’re doing. We all joke about how crowded the gym is in January and how empty it will be again a month or so later. We are both unhappy that there are line ups for all the equipment and happy that more people are joining in. Later, we’re happy the crowds are gone and sad that they didn’t stick with it. We all wonder how we could make the gym more welcoming and supportive for new people.

That’s the same set of conflicting feelings I have every September. For students and professors, September 1 is our January and we play it out, not at the gym, but on the multi-use pathway to campus. This will be the year that I won’t take the car/bus. This is the year that I’ll bike/walk to campus. Just watch me riding/biking. And the fall really is the very best time of the year to ride. See Reasons to start riding in the fall and There’s a certain chill to the air and The Joys of Fall Riding.

But I also know that in a few weeks they’ll be gone. The first rainy day will take some of them out. The first morning frost will be too much for others. Once it starts to get dark early you need to buy lights to commute. Come late fall I’m riding in and home again in the dark. And like February/March in the gym, I’ve got mixed reactions. First, wheee! Zoom! I’ve got the path to myself again. Second, where are you? What stopped you? How can I help?

The best program I’ve seen to get people riding to university was in Australia. (Of course.) As a regular commuting cyclist you got paired with someone near you who wanted to ride to work. You signed up and committed to ride with them for a week. You got to answer questions about bike storage and about what to wear. At the end of the week the university cycling program bought you both breakfast at the campus cafe most often frequented by regular commuting cyclists. I was still getting used to riding on the left then so I didn’t volunteer but it struck me as a great idea.

What kind of support do you think beginning commuting cyclists need most? What would help you?

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