Four Life Lessons Learned From Bicycle Commuting
I have had a bicycle to ride to and from work for the past few weeks. This is my first time riding a bicycle in a major city much less in a place that has no stop signs. Argentine drivers are not known for their superior driving skills. These are a few of the lessons that I have picked up that have made my commute easier and curiously apply to other areas of life as well.
1. Multitasking comes in handy.
Cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, other bicycles, pedestrians…you name the obstacle and that is what I need to watch out for while riding. The ability to shift attention rapidly keeps me from getting hit by the numerous novice drivers here. As though the moving obstacles do not provide provide enough distractions, there are traffic circles and 5-way intersections to contend with occasionally as well as the looming threat of the suddenly opening car door.
I know there are countless studies that criticize multitasking for its ability to diminish productivity. However, multitasking enables that elusive work-life balance that we all seek. It may be a quirk of Generation Y, but it is clear that multitasking is here to stay. Learn ways to use it to your advantage.
2. You have to make yourself seen.
The first few days that I rode the bike, I practically hugged the curb. I believed that if I made myself scarce, I would be safer. The major problem is that every other block there is a double parked car and I was hitting quite a few side mirrors. Furthermore, the drivers did not exercise as much caution with me as I did with them. This is understandable but annoying nonetheless. I watched the other cyclists are saw that they made sure to take adecuate space on the road. They did not try to hide from the cars. Making sure that the cars saw me allowed me to get to my destination faster with fewer obstacles.
Trying to hide from the spotlight in life does not help you to meet your goals. You can be a genius at what you do. If no one knows about it, you are doing yourself a disservice. You need to take the chance of making your presence felt.
3. Know when to follow the rules. Know when to break the rules.
The longer that I have been riding, the more that I find I imitate the behavior of other cyclists, for better and for worse. I wind through the spaces between cares when they stop at the red lights. I cross intersections when they are clear rather than according to the traffic signals. Following the other cyclists makes commuting by bicycle easier because there is safety in numbers. However, I also break a number of traffic laws.
You need to know when to play by the rules and when to break them. The conventional wisdom in the workplace may be that you need to “pay your dues;” you may be used to following a standard track for success throughout your education. It is important to know when following these expectations is necessary and when you should consider creating your own expectations that will allow you to grow as a person.
4. The path that you choose matters.
The first day that I rode to work, I rode all the way down the street that I live on. Things began well, but half way there, I found myself in an intersection surrounded by five lanes of traffic and one of those intimidating five-way intersections. Crossing was harrowing to say the least. I learned from that error in judgment and took a different route the next day.
How you reach your goals matters as much or possibly more than achieving them. Your decisions and the ability to learn from your mistakes can make the journey easier or more difficult. And if you find yourself in the middle of an intimidating situation, avoid panic. Just ride out the rough patch and find a way to avoid the same pitfall in the future.