Hassle Factor: Biking vs. Driving
I regularly talk to people who sound incredulous that I manage all the “hassles” of bike commuting. In biking as in life, hassles are what you make them.
When I drove most of the time and commuted occasionally, the change back and forth between systems of organizing and carrying things created hassles. Being 100% bike eliminates barriers to biking and raises barriers to driving. I’m not anti-driving–I just don’t like hassles.
I’ll put in one plug for raising free-range kids with less complicated schedules, suggest that you bike to school with them a few times so they know the way and get them a bus pass when they’re older, and leave you to your duties as Mom or Dad Taxi Driver.
My daughters (20 and 17 as of this writing) no longer need my assistance to get to school—and I put them on the city bus a long time ago for all those trips you “have” to drive them for, such as trips to the mall to hang out with friends.
- Fill panniers with my stuff (laptop, lunch, phone, etc.; some rain gear if the forecast is ominous).
- Bike to work, usually in regular work clothes and shoes (2.5 miles/approximately 9 minutes, mostly downhill with some traffic sprints).
- Lock bike to rack, remove panniers, go into office.
- If it’s cold or wet: Remove outerwear.
Total elapsed time: 12-15 minutes. Slightly longer if I take the bike into our indoor sheltered bike parking due to weather conditions, because I have to get through the locked door and put the bike on a wall rack; add five minutes if I do a full clothing change but that gets more and more rare all the time as I figure out how to shop; “forgetfulness time” (“I forgot I need that file!”) applies no matter what form of transportation I choose.
- Fill panniers with my stuff. Because I now have beautiful Po Campo bags I no longer have to do as much switching as I did back when I had the Black Uglies so this step got faster unless I’m making a fashion choice to use a different purse, in which case I’ll have to spend time deciding.
- Remember that I need a parking pass for the day. If I don’t have one on hand, I’ll have to factor in time to go to the campus parking office to purchase one. Add 5 minutes to hunt for the pass, another 10 if I didn’t find one.
- Drive to work. This may include extra wait time because I don’t have a dedicated lane that lets me bypass left-turning vehicles. On my bike I can keep going past the lefties because my route has a bike lane for about half its length.
- Park somewhere in the lot, which involves circling to find a spot. If the lot is full I will have a longer walk.
- Walk to building (guaranteed to be a longer walk than bike rack, since that’s right next to the building entrance).
- Remove outerwear if it’s cold (might include a footwear change).
Total elapsed time: 20 minutes, plus up to another 15 to address the parking permit question. I no longer purchase a year-round parking pass because I don’t need one. This saves me $288.06 per year at current prices. Cha-ching.
- Hang pannier on bike with my stuff for meeting.
- If I wear pants, use binder clip or rubber band to contain right pant leg so it won’t catch in the chain.
- Put on helmet.
- Ride to meeting 1/2 mile away (my pedals are clip-in one side, regular on the other, so I don’t have to change shoes).
- Lock bike to rack or sign pole in front of destination; drop helmet into my Donkey Boxx.
- Remove pannier (purse), although I often use my Po Campo Loop Pannier as a messenger bag and just sling it over my back for a five-minute ride.
- Arrive at meeting.
Total elapsed time: Approximately seven minutes.
- Remember where I parked my car in the lot.
- Walk to car.
- Drive to meeting 1/2 mile away.
- Circle until I find a parking spot—and Spokane has lots of one-way streets in the downtown core, so a circle can be up to eight blocks.
- Realize I don’t usually carry parking meter change because I don’t need it on my bike.
- Sprint into meeting destination, beg change from others in the meeting, sprint back to car.
- Plug meter.
- Walk at brisk pace back to meeting, avoiding sprint because I now need to cool down. Yes, it’s possible to get sweatier using a car than using a bike and one of the reasons I bike is because I’m lazy.
Total elapsed time: Completely variable depending on location of parking spot and availability of spare change (which I admittedly do try to carry in the car, but I use it so seldom there’s no guarantee). ALWAYS, always longer than 7 minutes.
Hassles? I’ll take my bike, thank you very much.
I didn’t even mention that the price of a gallon of gas currently comes in at about the price of a 16-oz. latte with flavoring. I’d rather be fueled by caffeine than by fossil fuel, and I like my “calories per mile” equation.
Oh, and my transit alternative? My employer subsidizes the pass because that’s cheaper than paving more parking lots; there’s a stop on the street that goes past my building; and the central transit plaza is in the heart of downtown, right across the street from one of my main destinations for meetings. Seven minutes start to finish—same as the bike and no parking ticket.