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1000 kilometers

I learned biking as a kid. However, my parents were scared of the traffic and thus I was not allowed to bike far away from home. In fact, my siblings and I had to stay within our road and we were not allowed to get close to the end of it. Only at the end of my studies, I was riding with my bike from my hometown to Vienna to save some money. Funny enough as a teenager I had a moped. For some reason that was perceived as being safer than going by bike.

When I moved to Belgium, I took my bike with me. Though I used it maybe once. Partly that was because it was just too small and not very comfortable to use. Mostly biking did not fit within my life. Using my bike instead of my car felt like a big burden and it would not have allowed me to do things the way I wanted to. When I left Belgium, I sold my bike. It is ridiculous. I brought my bike to a country in which biking is rather normal and did not use it at all.

When I moved to the Netherlands, I promised myself that it would be different this time. Increasing fuel prices pushed me to stick to this plan. Additionally, since I work on the topic of energy transition, I am aware of how much private car use contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Also, going around by car in The Hague is a bit painful. There is a lot of traffic, parking is difficult and expensive, and I tend to collect speeding tickets. Going to work would be more comfortable by car. I start working early thus, traffic would not be an issue and I would not have to spend much time finding parking. Though I moved in the middle of the pandemic and going to work was not a topic. Therefore, I was more concerned with going around within The Hague. Going to the beach by car is pretty expensive due to the high parking fees. Doing the groceries by car felt awkward. Driving less than a kilometer to the next grocery store was a weird thing to do. Thus, a bike was needed.

My first step was getting a used bike. In the end, I spent more than I wanted. Though getting a bike without gears and breaks was not an option. Soon after buying the bike, I was happy having spent a bit more than planned. It was great to do everything by bike, though due to the lockdowns I did not have to go very far. When I went to the beach, I had to bike for 30-40 minutes. However, this was more a private fun thing, and it did not matter to arrive at my destination sweating. Back then I was already wondering how I would do it when I had to go to work. It would be a 40 – 50-minute bike ride and I was not sure if that was practical. I thought back to the times in Belgium. There I neither went to work by bike because of practical considerations. Furthermore, I was not sure if I would manage to bike 26 kilometers a day.

At the end of summer 2021 we could for a short period of time again work from the University. So, I tried to go there by bike. It was tough. I was sure that with time I would get used to biking that much. Nevertheless, I was wondering how long it would take me to get accustomed to it. The Dutch people seem to have some genetic advantage when it comes to biking. Just kidding, they are used to it and can bike very fast easily. At least this is the impression I have. It is fascinating! I often felt like a grandmother when I was taken over by someone. Watching the Dutch bike, makes it look like being effortless. Also, they can mount their bike super-fast. I still have not learned that. Anyway, after going by bike to work a couple of times I realized that this is not going to be practical. Thus, I invested in an e-bike.

The environmentally friendly alternative to biking is going by public transport. Though going to work by bike is faster. Time is precious, so I prefer biking. I was a bit hesitant to invest that much in a bike, but I have to admit it has been the best investment so far. I love my bike. Going by e-bike is like riding in the first gear but being fast at the same time. It is still work, but it takes much less effort.

I go to work three times a week. The other two times I work from home. Additionally, I do sport after work and on the weekends. Thus, I move a lot. My body still has to get accustomed to it. I think I am close to having built a new routine and new habits. As things are now, I bike between 130-150 kilometers a week. Although, I have an e-bike this is quite a lot for me. I know that I have to push through and at some point, my body will be able to handle it with ease. Apart from tiredness, my body reacts with being incredibly hungry all the time. The drawer in my office is full of food; dried fruit, chocolate, nuts. All the good stuff that gives me the energy I need. I also store my breakfast in the office so that I have to carry less on my bike. I start working at 7.00 a.m. and I leave the house at 6.15 a.m. Hence, I only have breakfast when I am in the office (around 9.00). My lunch is usually prepared on Sunday, and I bring it with me every day together with some fruit. Apart from food, I also bring my laptop, clothes (to change), and my rain poncho. Thus, I bring quite a lot of stuff with me every day.

I like to have structure and my days are full. If I would go by car, I could save 40 minutes on my commute. Thus, going by bike calls for more efficiency. All is prepared the day before the commute. I try to have my bags packed and I decide the evening before my commute what to wear. Going by bike needs me to be a bit more organized than I usually would be. Though, just a bit.

In earlier times I have been a runner. Now running is substituted by biking. Thus, depending on the point of view, going by bike to work even saves time. That is as if I would go by car I would have to add some cardio training additionally. Since my days are full anyway, I always had to be organized to not waste too much time. Leaving the cardio training aspect aside, even if I would go by car, I could not do things more efficiently. That is as going by car within The Hague is not practical. Hence, after work, I would anyway have to go home first to get my bike to ride to the climbing gym, or to the beach, or wherever I would need to go within the city.

My body is still not used to biking that much. Potentially, if I would only bike and not do other sports, I would not struggle. It will take me a bit longer to get used to all that biking. As stated, 150 kilometers of biking in one week is quite a lot for me. Nevertheless, I of course have also realized that it is getting better. My body already knows what’s to come when I get up in the morning. It has become an automatism and the bike ride itself is not an issue. It is just my energy level is decreasing during the week.

To be at the office at 7.00 a.m., I have to get up at 5.45 a.m., which is early. Though it is absolutely doable, and I love biking in the early morning. Spring is around the corner and the sun is coming out earlier every day. I love to observe that change in the mornings. The birds are back and when I get up, I can already hear them chirping. The air is cold, fresh, and clear in the morning. Admittedly, I enjoy the cold air on my face in the morning. Though I need a hot drink after biking, and I need to get wrapped up in a blanket to get warm again. The mornings are also very calm, and I love to enjoy the calm scenery in the early morning hours. Sure, on the days that are windy and rainy it is not that nice to go by bike. If it is very windy, I do not go by bike. At least I have not done so far. Sure short trips in windy conditions are ok, but a 40-minute ride has so far seemed to be too much on very windy days. Rain is less of an issue. Once I was riding to the office while it was raining. But because my poncho is not covering all of my legs and neither my shoes, I was wet when I arrived at the office. To not get ill I had to put my trousers and shoes on the heating. Luckily, I could wrap myself in a blanket to not freeze and sit in the office in underwear. Then it is also good to be in the office at 7.00 a.m.

Going home by bike after work is nice too. Again, it for sure depends on the weather. Though, biking home helps to get rid of stuck energy that has accumulated over the workday. It is much busier when I bike home, but most of my path is along a river, thus, traffic is not a big issue. I guess I would not like biking that much, if there were no bike lanes and if I would have to bike through busy traffic and an ugly scenery. So, I guess there are many factors that together make biking an efficient and usually pleasant experience.

The other day my bike got the first inspection because I reached 1000 kilometers. To me, that is incredible: 1000 kilometers! If it was just for the environment I probably would not go by bike. It is a combination of reasons and the structures around me that make me go by bike.

  • Going by car within the city is troublesome

  • Parking in the city is expensive

  • I tend to collect speeding tickets (and man, they charge a lot!)

  • Bike lanes exist (thus good, supportive bike infrastructure)

  • My commute has a nice scenery

  • I have a nature experience while biking (many birds, cold fresh air, sun / rain on my face, etc.)

  • I can combine commuting and light cardio training

  • Biking is good for my health

  • I can do something for the environment

  • I can align my convictions with my actions (which helps seeing myself in the mirror)

Given that I go between 130 and 150 km per week the next 1000 kilometers will soon be reached.

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