Opinion

Robert Ehlert: Boise Bike Week got me back in the saddle

My ride is nothing special: a fire-engine red 1990s Specialized mountain bike that has yet to tread along a single actual Foothills trail. Maybe a good thing since I mounted the tires in the wrong direction.

But my bike route to work is special: down Bogus Basin, cutting through the Hawkins Pac-Out lot, past Hill Road and then working my way south along 17th street, gradually pedaling past the Shady Lady streets ... Dora, Irene, Bella, Hazel and Ada ... until I reach State and then angle beyond Main and River toward Shoreline and the Firefighters Memorial at Riverside Park, where I pick up the Boise Greenbelt.

Then it’s west over the old railroad bridge on the “bike connector” and uphill toward the Bench, where these old legs have to pump a bit, zigging over to Irving and zagging to the brink of Curtis Road and the Idaho Statesman. Five miles and change.

I had a reporter friend in Sacramento who, without fail, rode his bike 18 miles one-way from Fair Oaks all along the American River Bike Trail, a 35-mile gem that ends at the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers. Another colleague rode more than 20 miles from his house near UC Davis over to Sacramento, crossing the elevated Yolo Causeway in the midst of a migratory bird wonderland.

Though I thought they were slightly off because of this daily dedication, I admired their tenacity and organizational skills. Each had a wardrobe of “work” clothes stashed at the Sacramento Bee. They never missed a morning meeting and never complained about long rides amid raindrops. I lived about 25 miles away from the Bee and never tried to ride in, except for one experiment when I did a combo bike/light rail train trip.

It wasn’t until I moved to Idaho in 2013 that I accepted my landlord’s invitation to use one of his bikes and cycle in from Hyde Park on Bike to Work Day that year. I loved it, even though I took a wrong turn into Kathryn Albertson Park and did loops until I found my way back out of that magical cinnamon roll maze.

Because of what I do and what I have to wear and where I need to go during an average work day, I can’t always ride. I shoot for at least once a week, and this month hope to break my modest personal best as many times as possible.

I invite you to try it out, too. Hop on the bike Friday on Bike to Work Day. Borrow or spring for a helmet. You don’t have to go all Spandex and bike club colors. Wear some shorts or take one of those big, blue rubber bands from the asparagus bundle and restrain those pant cuffs.

Besides the office, you’ll be surprised where it takes you. That jolt of early morning activity rivals a cup of Joe. From a bike saddle, you see more: morning coffee front porch conversations; house-cleaners and handymen arriving for the day; moms loading kids and car seats into cars; dogs and their people enjoying a walk; anglers on the Boise River beneath the bridge.

There is the satisfaction of knowing you combined a trip to work with some physical activity — and that car sat idle. I don’t even think of it as commuting. I think of it as communing with the streets of Boise on a beautiful morning, stopping to observe evolving vegetable gardens and smell the flowers of the season.

Watching a city wake up and meet the day.

Robert Ehlert is the Statesman’s editorial page editor. Reach him at 377-6437 or follow @IDS_HelloIdaho.

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