Thursday, May 24, 2007

Healthy, Wealthy & Wise

My daily commute from home to work in Birmingham (the original city in the UK) was about 5 miles alongside canals. I would run or bike. When I started out, I was mostly walking or running to work. I bought a car for work since I was expected to eventually carry equipment to GP offices to gather data for the study we would be running. But I did not need the car for well over a year. Frank brought me my bicycle from the States after I had found a place. So some days I would bike and others I would run. It was a form of exercise when I started out, so I'd gear up and then at work, I'd shower change and get to work. Same routine back in the evenings.

On the few occasions that I took the car to work I realized how amazingly pleasant my bike commute was compared to my auto-commute. No stopping and going. My jams were at worst a gaggle of geese who decided to cross the path and were being hissy to protect the goslings. It was beautiful. I slowly changed from seeing the bike ride as exercise to seeing it more as my transportation system. And while that may not seem like a great change to most, it was something that I had to learn from Jurriaan who came from Amsterdam.

To Jurriaan, the bike is a very practical and efficient form of transport for any journey that was about 10 miles or less. And if one did not treat it as a workout, then biking at a leisurely pace not only got you where you were going, but you didn't really have to gear up and change before and after since you would not be sweating like crazy. I decided to give it a try. Wow! To integrate a bicycle into your everyday life is a very liberating experience in more ways than one.

I am in Europe again, this time in Netherlands & Belgium. These two countries are awash in bicycles and cyclists. Everybody hops on a bicycle and pedals off to daily life. To work, to grocery stores, with children to the park, to schools, to pubs... I think the bike-culture is at least one factor in the consistently high ranks north western European nations receive in the best-place-to-live polls. More on how I think this plays out in future blogs. Also pictures! :)

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