Undriver #1,521: Michael Snyder, Car-free Bicyclist

April 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogroll, Undriver Stories

For Undriver Michael Snyder, getting on a bicycle six years ago proved to be the path to weight loss and car-free living.  Now he’s on the Cascade Bicycle Club board and leads rides for reluctant cyclists, among many other things “bike.”  May is Bike to Work Month – how about it?

I probably started Undriving out of stubbornness. Through my first four years at Microsoft, my waistline grew and I was tipping the scales over somewhere above 280 lbs.  Late in 2004, the scale twisted around so far in agony that it read my weight as 10 lbs.  It was time for a change.  I looked at my lifestyle and realized that I had an unhealthy dependency on my car, so I donated it to charity and forced myself to bicycle from Ballard to Redmond every day!

It wasn’t quite that dramatic.  I bought a used mountain bike that looked comfy and sturdy and first rode it half a mile.  A few days later after I wasn’t sore anymore, I tried it again and went a mile.  After a few weeks, I was riding from Ballard to the Montlake bus stop where I could catch a bus to the Microsoft campus.  I had also figured out that I could take the bus the entire way if I needed.  It was still rather dramatic; I made the decision in November figuring that if I could survive without a car through the winter, I really didn’t need a car at all.  After four months, I had lost at least 40 pounds.  Six years later, I still don’t own a car.

What I wish I had known when I started:

1. You can pay a small fee to freeze your insurance so that you aren’t considered a high risk driver after 3 months of car-free living.

2. If you’re in Seattle, register with SDOT’s One Less Car before you go car-free and Seattle will give you transit vouchers and a discounted Zipcar membership.

3. Weather Underground‘s animated radar maps are great for helping you time your commute between bands of rain.

4. Cascade Bicycle Club has “Riding With Confidence” and “Urban Traffic Skills” classes for newer riders.

Still room for five wedding guests on the Conference Bike!

5. Ask a cyclist or bicycle shop to help fit your bicycle to you correctly.  It will save you from some aches and pains.

6. Spokespeople offers easy bicycle rides for beginners.  I even help lead one of them, the monthly Wallingford Spokespeople rides.
7. Seattle and King County have great bicycle maps that are freely available.

8. Seattle is a great place to bicycle!

In the years since I’ve become an Undriver:

• I have bicycled to Spokane, Canada, Florence Oregon, and Boise Idaho.

• I met my wife who is also an Undriver.  We shared our enjoyment of bicycling with our wedding guests by renting the 7-person conference bike from Dutch Bike Company in Ballard.

• I am still glad that I don’t own a car.

- Michael Snyder is a daily bicycle commuter, Cascade Bicycle Club board member, League of American Cyclists certified instructor, SeattleLikesBikes blog co-founder, and ride leader for Spokespeople.

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