Sep
26
2018

Bike Commuting: Putting My Assumptions to the Test

By Ashley

Photo of Ashley's dark red commuter bike and green backpack.

Which is faster? My car or my bike?

Why do alarms provide the option of snooze? Has the spare five minutes ever allowed one to wake fully rested? Probably not, but I fell into the trap not once but twice on the morning in question. By the time I built enough motivation to begin the morning routine, I was running quite late. The thought occurred to me that I could jump in my car and make up the lost time. All was fine and well for the first block. I was genuinely enjoying the experience. This peaceful feeling was fleeting. I approached my first major roadway. You mean I have to turn left across three lanes of 40+ mph rush hour traffic with no stoplight prior to the caffeine kick? Though I survived that with all quarter panels intact and hurried my way to my place of employment, I was still late… In fact, I was so late the thought that biking might actually be faster was stuck in my head as I power-walked down city blocks. I decided to test this theory. Which is faster? My car or my bike?

For the next ten days, I logged my commute time from the moment my front door closed to the moment my foot was in my place of employment. Of note, these measurements include time spent finding parking for my vehicle and walking. Recording ten days allowed me a full work week with each method of transportation. Here are my results:

 

Commute via Car Commute via Bike Difference
AM

(minutes*)

PM

(minutes*)

AM

(minutes*)

PM

(minutes*)

AM PM
Monday 27 21 18 22 9 -1
Tuesday 24 29 20 20 4 9
Wednesday 25 19 19 19 6 0
Thursday 31 20 22 22 9 -2
Friday 24 15 20 21 4 -6
Total Time 131 104 99 104 32 0
Average Time 26.2 20.8 19.8 20.8 6.4 0

*All times are rounded to the nearest minute. Difference calculated as car time – bike time. On average, it is 6.4 minutes faster to ride my bike to work in the morning.

As a type of person who appreciates having facts prior to making decisions, these measurements were of critical importance in rekindling my interest in commuting via bike. I had fallen into a mindset that my bike commuting was consuming precious morning time. I believed that vehicles were faster and would save many minutes in a pinch. However, the time spent commuting via each method speaks for itself. I can definitively say that, for me, bike commuting saves time every morning and is not slower in the evenings. Next time I am running late, I will know trading my bike for a set of keys is not going to make that lost time up.

The numbers seen above are just the surface of what my experiment taught me. I learned that the peaceful, quiet moments to be one with nature cannot be overstated but are easily taken for granted. While in my car, I missed the smell of a new day. I missed the breeze going by my hair, the sounds of the birds, and watching the squirrels scurry up trees. Giving myself a moment to miss these things reminded me to actively seek the beauty in this world. This is the tip of the iceberg regarding benefits I feel from cycling. Others include: saving money, contributing to sustainability, enhanced fitness, and seeing like-minded individuals on the trail.

When I was in my car, the noises I heard were of tires on concrete, brakes screeching, engines revving. I was in a state of hyper-vigilance, as everyone seemed to be in a hurry. It was a game of how fast can everyone drive to the next point where everyone stops, waits, then becomes frustrated about waiting – repeating this cycle ad infinitum. Three days out of the five, I drove by accidents. Many motorists seemed more interested in the hardship of another driver than in actually driving themselves in a safe manner. If I rolled down my window, I could have an aroma of engine emissions mixed in with that wonderful new day smell. There is nothing natural nor relaxing about any of this. I then proceed to circle city blocks, scouring for curbside parking. Cars line the streets on both sides for blocks upon blocks. I end up parking seemingly halfway between my house and place of employment, practically rejoicing to finally have found a spot. Then the, at a minimum, ten-minute power walk phase begins. Regardless of my method of travel, I enter the building with pretty comparable levels of sweat.

On the final day of my car commuting, I had a breakdown moment. I could not stand how long it was taking me any longer, and I threw my commuter bike in my car and substituted biking for walking. Now, I am happily back to commuting via bike with renewed resolve.

Have you debated if bike commuting is worth it? Have you seen it as more of a hassle? Perhaps leaning into an experiment of your own will refuel your fire to stay on the bike. There is nothing like testing why something is truly important to oneself. Why is commuting via bike enjoyable to you?

Happy cycling! I will see you on the trails.

 

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2 Comments + Add Comment

  • I love this! I hope more commuters on the fence give it a try. My rule of thumb is that it takes twice as long to commute by bike as by car, but sometimes it is the same or faster, and always better.

  • Great info! I think if more people knew how easy bike commuting was they would give it a try. I’ve kept track of the same thing over the years. If I drive to work early, like before 6:30am, it would only take 15 minutes. If I wait until 7:15 it turned into a 25-30 minute drive. Driving home is about 20-25 mid-afternoon, but jumps to 30-35 minutes at 5pm. My 8 mile bike commute is always 25-30 minutes to work and about 35 minutes home. I prefer the bike commute as it is much less stressful and an easy way to incorporate exercise into my daily routine.