Ride Story by Michael DeHerrera, PeopleForBikes digital content creator | Photos by Natalie Starr, Photographer
As we continue our One Ride at a Time campaign, we hit the road with Austin. Did you know choosing to ride your bike instead of driving just once a day can reduce your personal transportation-related carbon emissions by 67%? And if 10% of the population were to replace one car trip a day with a bike ride, overall carbon emissions from transportation would drop 10%? Austin is doing just that by replacing his short car trips with bike rides as much as possible. Let’s take a ride as we make his work commute on two wheels instead of four!
Packed up and ready for the ride home.
We met up with Austin after a day of work. He currently works as a social worker for Aurora Public Schools outside of Denver, Colorado. As a seasoned bicyclist, Austin knows what to pack for rides of any distance. A ride from Austin to San Antonio, Texas (about a 100-mile trek) was the route that opened his eyes to the possibility of bike-based travel. After more research, he found a blog about a couple that sold everything and traveled from Virginia to Oregon by bike. With a new dream of the 100-mile ride, Austin readied his long-distance cargo bike and as soon as the opportunity arrived, he loaded up and made the trip from Austin to San Antonio entirely by bike.
Austin uses a combination of bike paths and dedicated bike lanes on his route to work.
Austin first found biking in college. Equipped with a simple single speed, he made his way around campus, later joining group rides of 300-400 people and finding a community of fellow bicycle enthusiasts. From social rides, he went on to replace car trips with his bike. Eventually he started looking at cycling as a way to travel farther and longer than he thought was possible.
”I can do everything on a bike!”
Austin continues to bike for transportation between bigger trips. Not shy to a long-distance tour, he has participated in the TransAm and Great Divide rides. Austin often gets noticed on his bigger tour rides and fascinates many as he makes stops along the way. With a fully loaded trailer and all his essential traveling items, people often ask him questions during his travels.
Austin also utilizes roads without dedicated bike lanes, staying safe thanks to his many years of experience.
What advice would you have for a new rider?
“Definitely build confidence on the road, because there aren’t bike paths and bike lanes everywhere. There will be times when you get on a road that isn’t super comfortable. You have to know what your rights are and how to interact with a car safely. Pay attention to driver behaviors so you can be more aware of how you will be maneuvering. Be defensive and keep yourself safe. After that, figure out what clothes make you comfortable. If you’re not comfortable, you’re not going to ride.”
How do you feel knowing you’re creating such a positive impact combating climate change by cycling?
“I’ve thought about it and I definitely think it’s great to reduce the amount of traffic. When you get more advanced and you’re biking farther distances, you notice smog over the city as you come back. You think damn, why are there so many cars and why do we have to be driving so much when we aren’t driving far at all?
I also reduce the amount of my driving by riding with a trailer. A quick trip to the grocery store in a car is not always necessary, I can pedal.
With bike tours, you see so many different ecosystems as well. When I did both tours I had to take detours due to wildfires. Although it’s a natural occurrence, we have done a number on our world. If we can’t breathe we won’t be able to bike. Then we have to drive and it becomes a vicious cycle.”
Sometimes the easiest routes are the best routes!
As we came to the end of our commute with Austin, we asked him one final question:
Why bike everywhere?
“When I was bike commuting in Austin and working at a charter high school, I sometimes drove, I sometimes rode my bike depending on what I had to do that day. Every time I walked in, the assistant principal could always tell if I biked or drove. It wasn’t so much about what I was wearing, but her explanation of how she always knew was that I came in with a bigger smile on my face when I was biking. It makes you feel good and it allows you to see the city in a totally different way. You experience the beauty of the world in a different way.“
You experience the beauty of the world in a different way when you’re on a bike.