Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why Don't We Bike Commute?

It seems like a perfect situation:  people want to save money, get healthy, be outside, and more.  They complain about traffic jams, not finding places to park, the price of gas, and plenty of other things.  

What's the logical answer?  Ride your bike instead of driving.  It's cheap, it's good exercise, it's fun, you get to see the world around you at a slower pace and actually enjoy it, and you're not nearly as limited by the vagaries of traffic.  

But every one of us who has talked openly about riding our bikes to work hears the same reasons that "it's great you can do that, but I could never do it."  So let's look at some of these reasons and talk about the answers.

1.  I don't have a bike.  Well, buy one.  It'll pay for itself after you forgo a few fill-ups of your car, and you'll save money by not having to go to the gym, etc. as well.  

2.  I don't know what kind of bike to get.  Ask around.  One thing I've discovered since starting this blog is that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other blogs and forums devoted to biking and bike commuting.  Also, everyone knows that bike shop down the road.  You know, the one you keep meaning to check out but never found the time.  Make the time.  There are people inside who would love to help you get a bike that's right for you and get out on the road.  

3.  I'm scared to ride in traffic.  Definitely a valid excuse, as there are some wild drivers out there.  And the cell phone revolution hasn't helped matters any by taking drivers away from full attention.  But there are steps you can take to get noticed by drivers, things like orange vests or fluorescent jackets, bike lights, and even bike-mounted lasers that put a laser-generated line on the sidewalk for you to indicate the closest that cars should come to you.  There are classes you can take to learn the proper techniques for riding in traffic.  There are maps that will tell you the best places to bike in your community.  There are books that can give you information on techniques for urban riding.   The resources are endless.  

4.  I don't want to get to work all sweaty.  Also a valid excuse, especially if you work in a business-wear environment.  At the risk of grossing you all out, I sweat a lot.  I always have.  And I keep a fan at my desk and turn it on for a few minutes each morning after I arrive.  Just a few minutes of sitting there takes care of that issue.  I also keep deodorant in my bike bags to freshen up when I get to work.  In the REALLY hot weather, I wear a t-shirt while riding and then take a moment to change into my work shirt when I get to work.  For those of you who wear hair gel, there are sweat-resistant hair gels now.  I use one by Redken that works very nicely.  Some workplaces have or are near locations with showers.  And there are even garment bags for carrying a suit to work on your bike if you want to change clothes completely.  

5.  It's not convenient.  I find it more convenient than driving.  I get exercise and transportation all in one.  I have no need to pay for a health club membership.  Factor exercise time and commuting time into the equation and you'll find, I think, that you're actually saving time by riding.  

Do you have excuses that you'd like to share?  Let's explore them, and if we get enough we'll do a second (or more) post about the excuses we hear! 

People, not speed.

8 comments:

  1. I've got one; weather. Some will say that it's too cold, too hot, too rainy, too snowy, or too windy on any particular day.

    Solutions: Better equipment can help with the cold or rain. Showers at an office, gym, or bike station can help with the heat. But there are probably days when you really can't or shouldn't ride in the snow for your own safety. The cold too can be a problem, regardless of warm gear, if you have a longer commute.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Excellent. Proper gear helps in more ways, too, but overcoming weather issues is certainly one of the biggest. I ride through the winter and proper weather gear is the reason I can do so.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Firstly, I commute to and from work every day that I can. I wish it could be every day, but the excuse that it's not is that sometimes I have to run errands for work, and on those days I can't afford the time to ride to these places. I am an attorney and so bill my clients for my time - I doubt many of them would be willing to pay extra for me to ride somewhere than to drive! Any solutions there?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Boy, I wish there were solutions there. And having been a consultant for a number of years, I certainly understand having to drive to client sites. This city is really bad for that kind of stuff with all the sprawl that we've allowed ourselves to develop. I don't see any way around that now, and rather would congratulate you for doing it as much as you can!

    That being said... have you tried teleconferencing? I don't know how the legal profession looks upon such things, but IT is pretty friendly to it. There are some neat tools for that sort of thing now.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think the solution is car-sharing, but that's not currently available in downtown Columbus and it might also be something for which your clients don't want to pay. Sometimes rental cars are available on an hourly basis that is only somewhat more expensive than the typical car-sharing program.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I considered buying a beater car that I could leave downtown for running errands from the office, but I don't think parking it in a surface lot overnight would work, either from a safety perspective or under the parking rules.

    Most of the places I need to drive from work are for filings with government agencies, not client's offices, as I already take advantage of telephone conferencing when possible.

    ReplyDelete
  7. John hit it on the head... this is exactly the sort of thing that ZipCar (or other car-sharing programs) is for.

    Once the bike plan is totally in place, I think the downtown area will be more ready for car sharing, but we're still going to have to break down some paradigms about driving to work before that'll happen.

    I'm just impressed, Benjy, that you manage to bike commute at all given your profession!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great article here on bike commuting in the rain. Don't let the weather stop you!

    ReplyDelete