“Isn’t it risky?” That is what most people I talk to automatically ask, when I say “I commute by bicycle to my work in Makati from Bacoor, Cavite every Monday.” Well if they mean, me getting arrested for having such a handsome face while riding a bicycle along the streets of Metro Manila, then it really is.
Seriously though, anything we get into that we don’t prepare for can be risky. “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,” as Benjamin Franklin supposedly once said. Plan — that is what you need to do so that your journey into the wonderful world of bicycle-commuting would not be an epic fail. When I decided to cycle to work every Monday, I watched a number of online videos on how to plan my commute by bicycle such as: tips on safety, proper gear, changing a flat tire, fitness, handling skills and tons of other helpful stuff.
I started my Monday-cycling-to-work schedule in August 2018, a month after my wife bought me a road bike for my birthday. It takes me about an hour and a half by bicycle to go from our place in Bacoor, Cavite to my office in Makati. Driving by car to work in light traffic, I can usually cover this 20-kilometer stretch in just 45 minutes. Since light traffic is now a rare occurrence in Cavite during weekdays and extremely horrendous during Mondays, these days, it takes me and my wife almost two hours to get to work; my wife and I are officemates, by the way. Because our car is under the Monday number coding scheme (as a measure to address horrendous traffic, the government has prohibited private cars with license plates ending in 1 or 2 from running on city streets from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; those ending in 3 and 4 are not allowed on Tuesdays, 5 and 6 on Wednesdays, and so on), we both agreed that I would just cycle to work during that day and she would commute using public transport.
I also pedal around Cavite early in the morning during weekends so that I don’t lose my enthusiasm for my Monday commute.
Six months in, I still feel excited and nervous when I ride my bicycle to work, like what I felt during my first day of school as a Grade 1 student, but minus the crying “I want my Mama!” dramatics. I do sometimes feel I want to cry “Your mama…!” to address the “Kamote” (slang for idiot) drivers or inconsiderate motorists I encounter when I bicycle my way through the belly of the beast called Metro Manila, but I just bid them the best of hell, I mean health. If anything, feeling excited helps me to enjoy the ride and being nervous makes me extra cautious on the road. I’m so cautious that I seldom overtake other riders and vehicles. My speed is so slow, construction workers carrying heavy tools in their backpacks and smoking while riding their bicycles give a puzzled look as they pass me by. I also rarely deviate from the rightmost side of the road that people might think my bicycle is fixed to an invisible track.
Like what every mom always says, “Better to be safe than sorry.” I follow these words like gospel truth so that I wouldn’t I have to cry “I want my Mama!” when I ride my bicycle. I’m always in awe of other bicycle riders who pedal like they’re in a car, not affected by the bullying of the so-called “Kamote” drivers. These bicycle riders bob and weave through chaotic traffic like Muhammad Ali in the ring and with such fearlessness as well. As for me, I’ll just be contented to ride my bicycle like a timid butterfly to avoid being stung by a bee-hicle.
No matter what other people say, the advantages of cycling to work far outnumber the disadvantages. There is nothing like feeling the wind on your cheeks while riding a bicycle that will make you forget the welts on your butt cheeks caused by a bumpy ride. On top of that, you burn fat and save money at the same time. If you plan to commute by bicycle, my tip for you is to not ask me for tips because I’m no expert in this area, having been doing this for just barely 6 months. You can learn more from the online videos of the true bicycle experts. For me, the three takeaways I get from riding a bicycle are these: One, it’s possible that I made a friend when I smile and greet another bicycle rider and that makes me happy; Two, ideas flood my mind and that makes me happy too; and Three, I feel happy, plain and simple. Yes, the pursuit of happiness will be easier if you go after it riding a bicycle.