Bike commuting is an event. Unlike getting on only a few roads (or a freeway), biking to campus every day is about a 18 step process, full of exciting and varied experiences, not all of them good, not all of them bad, I'd like to describe some of the first 45 minutes of my day with these annotated maps....
AM MAP (click to enlarge):
My morning bike ride starts in the dark these days. Leaving at 7:30 am I have to turn bike lights on and (later in the ride) am battling the early-morning sun in my eyes. I am able to take bike paths most of the way with only a few obstacles. The hardest part is the climb up to the St. Paul campus. Two big hills stand in my way (Cleveland Ave and a short hill on the St. Paul campus) see map. After the Greenway I can take surface streets to connect to a transit way between the campuses. This road only allows bike and buses. Although lots of people agree this is a good combination, I consistently totally freak out anytime a giant accordion bus passes me on this road. Yeah, they see me, but lets face it, if they didn't -just once- there are no second chances. After 8 miles, my ride in the morning ends at a water tower. Top of the world, no easy task getting there.
On the way home I get to reap the benefits of climbing hills and can coast a good 1/4 mile at the beginning of the ride. Riding home is always easier because I have biking buddies. My friend Amber has a tradition of singing me a new song every ride and I always have people to ride back to Uptown with at the end of the day. The colder it gets, the more people band together to find a common time to bike home together, for some reason this makes a cold, dark ride home SOOO much easier. With darkness comes choices as well. The greenway bike path isn't a very safe option for riding after dark, known for hassling and crime and not very well lit. We usually choose to ride down Franklin avenue, a busy, but well lit street. Definitely not a great option during rush hours because the roads are full of potholes and you need room to maneuver.
Its getting cold enough that I don't even break a sweat after biking for 8 miles to school anymore. Rumor has it it might snow next weekend, time will tell but finger's crossed for another 2 weeks without ice. Pray for me.