Waking up to dark and rainy mornings is the norm during the fall and winter. During these months, it’s hard enough to get into a car or bus to commute to work — but a bike?
Believe it or not, thousands of people in the Northwest walk or bike to work every day, rain or shine. How do they do it?
Meet Brooks Stanfield. Brooks lives in Burien with his family, where he has helped start the nonprofit WABI Burien — a group of locals who are passionate about nurturing Burien’s walking/biking community. He also serves on the city’s planning commission to encourage making the city more bike- and walk-friendly. On top of all this volunteer work, Brooks works a day job at the US Environmental Protection Agency, biking 27 miles round-trip to and from his office. Every. Day.
We interviewed this commute warrior to get insight into his daily inspiration.
ANW: What do you love most about your car-less commute?
Brooks: My understanding of what I truly love about my bike commute continues to evolve. When I started riding 11 years ago, I had a newborn and a lot going on. My commute was a way to build exercise into my day. That is still a huge piece for me, but lately I’m realizing that my bike commute is my personal down time each day. No ear buds, emails or other information coming at me. I basically get a couple of hours each day just to be with my thoughts. I don’t know how many people these days get this in their everyday lives.
Brooks: We have a really passionate and supportive group of bike commuters in my office. Over the years, I have met a number of folks on the ride home who, because of differences in age and other aspects of life, I may never have gotten to know. Now they’re some of my best friends in my community and we do things together in our free time (even when not on a bike!).
ANW: How do you stay motivated to keep biking in the winter weather?
Brooks: I find that my bike commute is actually more important to me during the winter than the summer. It creates the opportunity for me to spend a couple hours outside each day, getting fresh air while still staying warm. It’s hard to find inspiration on those grey, dark winter days to actively pursue exercise, so having a built-in transportation routine overrides that.
And as far as the rain and the cold go, I really don’t find it a problem most days. Despite what you might think, it just isn’t that cold or that wet in Seattle, especially if you’re moving your body. At the same time — good rain gear never hurts!
ANW: Any advice for those wanting to switch to a bike or walk commute?
1. Survey your network!
Start by finding others in your workplace or social circle that already practice the form of commuting you want to try. I guarantee they are there and will jump at the chance to share information with others.
2. Learn how to be safe.
If you do a little homework on the common causes of accidents, select a route that seems safe and doable, and just use basic common sense when riding, you will succeed in having a safe — even relaxing — bike commute each day. There are also courses at local bike organizations like Cascade Bicycle Club for people wanting to try bike commuting.
3. Start slow.
Rather than biking every day, try phasing it in a couple times per week. This allows your body to build up to the new routine, and you can easily see the difference in how you feel when you’re biking. For me, I quickly realized I was about 50 percent more productive when I biked versus the days I rode the bus — and I’ve never looked back.
Brooks is just one of many passionate bike commuters in the Northwest. Check out more inspiration from active members of our community to inspire you to change up your commute this winter.
— Actively Northwest (@ActivelyNW) October 10, 2014
@ActivelyNW Get a waterproof bag
— Cascade Bicycle Club (@CascadeBicycle) October 10, 2014
— piggyflowers (@piggyflowers) October 10, 2014
Bike Commuting Resources
Seattle commuters: Go to Commute Seattle for maps, events, classes and tips, and be sure to check out their second annual Light Up Your Ride event on October 30! Expect raffle prizes, a huge selection of bike lights for your evening commute and plenty of free coffee.
Portland commuters: Visit the Bureau of Transportation’s bicycling page for maps, trip planning assistance, classes and more.