Creek in woods with green-headed duck in middle

Bicycle Commuting and the Friends We Make Along the Way

I regularly wave at a trail-friend or observe an animal-friend in the woods as I bike to work. It’s one of those little things that highlights how different bicycling is compared to driving. I move more slowly, I have the opportunity to see more things, and there’s no windshield to obscure a smile or wave. On my way to work today, I was contemplating all the friendly encounters I experience along my route, and decided to share some with you.

 

  • A family of turkeys that I’ve watched grow from chicks to gangly juveniles, often shepherded by a big parent turkey as they cross the road
  • A frequent trail user, who stopped me along my ride to point out a deer in the woods to me – now we always wave at each other as he rolls by
  • A child with fantastic barrettes in her hair, who sits on the bus bench with her mom in the afternoons
  • The cute old dog, whose black fur is turning white around his face, slowly ambling along the creek with his owner
  • The winter cyclist whose full-face helmet is very recognizable, but who I can’t recognize in warmer weather
  • Sam, who has recently been experiencing homelessness, and often stands on the corner along my route
  • A mallard family, who appear to be playing in the creek every time I see them
Creek in woods with green-headed duck in middle

I often find this mallard (or his friends) in this part of the creek

 

  • My friend Melissa, who I can usually spot from far away thanks to her light-up helmet, as she commutes to work in the opposite direction (also often encountering our turkey friends)
  • An older gentleman, who runs through the neighborhood every day, rain or shine or snow, wearing a reflective vest
  • A young person who walks several miles to the bus stop, often using the bike lane when the sidewalks haven’t been shoveled
  • The gardener, who created my favorite boulevard garden – a tiny strip of dirt that has glorious flowers covering every inch of it – diligently weeding in the early mornings
  • The cyclist who has two front lights, which always makes me think that a mini-car is coming toward me
  • A teenager who bike commutes to work at Target along Phalen Boulevard, and sometimes rides with me when our paths cross
  • Bald eagles flying over the Mississippi, and their huge nest further inland

 

I also see many people from streets.mn walking or biking around town – it always makes me smile! Thank you for the wave or biker’s nod, and thanks for making the world a slightly more delightful place.

 

Who do you greet along your commute? Do you chat with your bus driver or fellow transit users? Do you enjoy watching the ducks cross the road, or perhaps stop to help a turtle on its way? Please feel free to share your friendly-commute stories in the comments, or write your own post – we love new writers!

Jenny Werness

About Jenny Werness

Jenny is a carfree, bicycling, tree-loving St. Paul resident, with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. Our rapidly changing climate should be of utmost concern to all of us. Board of Directors of streets.mn, 2019-2021; Climate Committee Founding Member; Editor-in-Chief.

18 thoughts on “Bicycle Commuting and the Friends We Make Along the Way

  1. Bill LindekeBill LindekeModerator  

    I too see people on my way around. Each time it’s a great feeling (except for when I see you, Dave). It’s one of the best things about riding bikes!

    1. Jenny WernessJenny

      I bet we have! Hi! That’s my “flood route” (when Shepard and Commercial/Mounds were both closed), and is a couple miles longer than my usual route. I tend to take it on the way home when it’s nice out 🙂

      1. Jenny WernessJenny Werness Moderator   Post author

        And thanks for the “Phalen” correction – I forgot to double check!

  2. Melissa Wenzel

    Thanks for the shout out Jenny! I’ve not been biking the same time every day so I’m guessing we keep missing each other. I bet we see each other on the Fish Hatchery Trail VERY SOON! (-:

    1. Jenny WernessJenny Werness

      I am so excited!!!! I might just ride the trail back and forth a bunch of times to truly enjoy it.

  3. Eric SaathoffEric Saathoff

    Sometimes I see students from my school getting off their bus on Margaret Street. It’s fun for teachers and students to see each other in the community as real people.

    I also get to be up close and personal with construction workers creating the Margaret Street Bike Boulevard, including sidewalks. They are always super polite.

    Mostly I see the same people waiting for the bus as I pass their stops. They’re on a similar schedule, I suppose.

  4. Mark P

    Hi Jenny. Thanks for the fun article. I live in Denver and commute almost daily by e-bike. I ride right next to several creek beds so I get to see all kinds of creatures, human included.

    I get to see a friendly fox who is skittish around my bike. He is usually a darter across my path. There was one day I couldn’t get him to stop running parallel to my bike. We both had looks of horror on our faces.

    I routinely see deer on my route. There are two bucks in our neighborhood and they have both started their own clans. Very interesting to see the younger buck grow up. Have to be super careful though. They have a tendency to run towards my bell, rather than away from it.

    To the bunny rabbits that love running in front of my front tire, it stopped being funny a LONG time ago! 🙂

    There is a homeless lady and her dog that stay under an underpass I travel through. She was standoffish at first, but the consistent “Good morning” and “Good afternoon” has resulted in a hand raise recently. Baby steps!

    There are a myriad of cyclists that I see on my route daily. Some of them are interested in the bike, but the hard core sneer at me. All good. I’m not racing them!

    Other e-bikers are the best. It’s always a smile and a good morning. I relish the community.

    1. Jenny WernessJenny Werness Moderator   Post author

      What lovely stories!! Thanks for your comment. I saw two deer on my commute home yesterday who looked pretty young. No foxes yet, though I too would be worried if he was trying to run alongside! I hope you’ll share some more of your ebiking stories here – we need more smiles.

    2. Frank Phelan

      Several years ago, I was commuting through Swede Hollow. Going toward downtown, the grade is declines , and you can get rolling pretty fast.

      At one point it occurred to me that there are deer in the park, and given my speed and not always being able to see very far down the trail due to curves, it was possible I could crash into a deer.

      So at some places, I’d slow just a bit, and click my brakes as a heads up to Bambi. I pictured myself dead on the trail, my lung punctured by an antler, until discovered a couple hours later by a passerby.

      The first time I commuted by bike was through Phelan, I mean Phalen Park, on the road before sunrise. I also had no head light. But I could see critters scampering away as they became aware of my approach.

      I think most were raccoons, but given one could have been a skunk, I clicked my brakes and rode in the middle of the road (geographically if not politically).

      1. Eric SaathoffEric Saathoff

        I once ran over a small critter in Swede Hollow, but I was going too fast to see what it was. Sad day.
        But I did enjoy seeing all the deer when I had that commute! Never got a punctured lung.

        1. Frank Phelan

          Before Phalen Blvd was completed, the Vento from Johnson Pkwy through Swede Hollow was a great ride.

  5. Eric Ecklund

    I’ve started bike commuting with an e-bike between my home in West Bloomington and the Mall of America light rail station. It’s been a few days so far but there have been ups (fresh air, exercise, biking through neighborhoods and seeing all the activity, easily going up hills and against strong winds with the motor to assist, etc.) and downs (narrow or no bike lanes on the major streets I have to bike on, debris in the bike lane, anxiety with crossing busy intersections, etc.), but one interesting thing I’ve noticed is that all of the bikers I see on my commute on 86th Street are going west in the morning and east in the afternoon while I do the opposite. I’ve wondered where they’re going and how far their commute is (assuming they’re commuting).

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