Auto Manifesto

February 18, 2008

Why I Bike to Work, Part 1

In years past I would wake up earlier than a person should (6 am; I’m not an early morning sort), shower, get dressed, grab a bunch of personal effects and… what’s the word I’m looking for? Walking out the door is too graceful a phrase. I barged out the door with a bunch of stuff. I hate carrying stuff. Then I’d get in my car and drive to work by myself and run into the same gridlock in the same spots every day. The trip took 45 minutes, except when there were accidents which were not uncommon. I felt like I was stuck in a sea of ignorance.

For a time I tried the commuter train (VRE here in Virginia). Let me tell you about being on someone else’s schedule and running for a train while carrying a bunch of stuff. You have to get up earlier and it takes even longer. And then there are delays due to track problems. One time the train derailed. Luckily, I didn’t ride it that day. Public transportation, in general, can be as much of a pain as driving.

Last summer my office moved. It had been planned and discussed for a couple of years in advance so I had plenty of time to prepare. I drove it a few mornings to see how long my commute would be. No matter which way I tried, and I tried a number of them, I couldn’t get there in less than 75 minutes. And the drive home was at least that much unless I stayed at the office until 8 pm. No dice. I decided to move close to the new office.

I went house hunting with my bicycle in the back of the car. Every place I looked at, I’d bike from it to the new office to see how the commute would be. In the end I settled on a condo two miles away. It’s been one of the best moves I’ve ever made.

These days I generally roll out of bed at 7:30, change into my workout clothes, bike ten minutes to work, and I always get the best parking space. After I shower and dress, I have breakfast and then start my day.

I drive a lot less now. Once every few weeks I’ll drive to work if I need to. It takes ten minutes to drive. I’m not paying $100/month to park in the garage at work so add another five to ten to find street parking and walk in. In this case biking is way easier than driving. And if I hadn’t moved I’d be spending 2.5 hours a day sitting in traffic, compared to spending 20 minutes a day exercising and commuting. In terms of cost and quality-of-life, there’s no contest.

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