This is a new blog for a project I hope to try in the not-so-far future. My goal is to document my bicycle riding. Not only as means for my exercise, but also as transportation. Before I do so, let me get a few things off my chest.
Living in Houston, TX makes it challenging when trying to commute by bicycle. On some occasions you will find yourself getting yelled at for “not riding on the sidewalk”. Oh, if they only knew the laws around here. Around here, if there is a bike lane available, it was most likely put in as an afterthought. The city squeezed down the lane size to make room for the bike lane, so now these people can lawfully squeeze by you. Not a very comfortable feeling I must say. Nevertheless, it is better than nothing.
In a state where space is not an issue, I have found that the distance you are given by a car is somewhat proportional to how visible you are. I tend to get “buzzed” on occasion (when someone passes you without fully moving out of the lane) when I am wearing normal clothing. Of course these drivers think they rule the road and “how dare you ride your bicycle on MY ROAD?!?!” Well it is my road too and if you don’t mind, I would like my safety length of 3ft between my bike and your car mirror, thank you. Many times this distance is given more often when I wear a reflective vest. Really? You cannot give me the space that is mine when I wear my comfortable t-shirt and shorts?
Have these people forgotten the freedom they felt when they were a kid and got a bicycle? I suppose the main rant drivers have is that cars are the norm and, yes, bicycles are slower. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. Maybe it is this fast paced world we live in where we have come to expect everything this very instant. Could that be the problem? We have become spoiled by getting everything so fast that slowing down for a second or two in order to pass a cyclist is a severe inconvenience. We want to just move our finger on a computer or our smart phone to have the latest tune from the popular pop star that will be forgotten in a few years. Anything more than that is not worth our time. Yes, we want everything delivered to us in a millisecond and if we can tap our feet five times, it is taking too long.
I find this particularly fascinating when it comes to the daily commute. I currently work night shift; but not too long ago I worked a typical day shift like everyone else. What I never understood was that the speed limit stated 60-mph, yet I was being blown away by drivers sometimes doing over 80-mph in the mornings. Do these people not realize that they are going to work? WORK. Yes, I am so eager to get to my workplace I want to speed to get there. I cannot wait to get to work! I am quite sure that is what these drivers are saying to themselves as they do their best impersonation of Mario Andretti in their 6-cylinder SUV. As the tachometer presses itself into the red, white knuckling the steering wheel, chanting out loud, “I love going to work! I must get there as fast as I can!” Yeah, right. Impatience is a horrible trait; unfortunately society has imbedded that into our heads with pinpoint precision.
I suppose that many of these drivers do not know how nice it is to ride a bicycle (or they have simply forgotten). Feeling the air rush by you and the sun warming your skin, it is just wonderful. I still remember how free I felt as a kid with my bicycle. All of a sudden it did not take 30-minute to walk to a friend’s house. The bike granted me a higher average speed, thus reducing the time spent commuting into the single digits. Maybe it is this convenience of speed that has people not wanting to ride a bicycle. Yet if they were seeking true convenience, then they would be on a bike. I can hop off of my bike at the entrance of a store, lock it up and walk right in. I do not need to circle the parking lot waiting to find the closest spot to the front door. It is like people have become allergic to exercise. I will circle this parking lot to find a close spot to avoid taking an extra 50 steps! I must or I will die!
No, I am quite positive that the main culprit here is energy used versus speed. I am referring to human energy. People want to do as little as required to get the most done. Therefore the car is the best tool for the job. I am reminded of a video I watched ages ago where the person spent 5-minutes looking for the remote control in the sofa so he did not need to walk to the TV to turn in on. If a person has to sweat, it is a horrible thing and a more simplistic solution must be found to reduce the labor involved (like a remote control for that TV!). No wonder this country is overweight.
I will admit it, I am not a 100% bike everywhere type person. I do drive my car, quite often in fact. Yet when I arrive at my destination, I find myself parking in a spot pretty far out. This gives me an easy angle to pull in (no sardine can spots), reduction in door dings, less time lost finding a spot to park and I also get to walk some. Now what the parking lot queens circling the lot like a bunch of vultures do not realize is that by the time they find their close spot, I am already parked and in the store shopping. So much for their theory of saving time by taking fewer steps, that one just got blown away.
In the end, the bicycle is a great tool to utilize for those close to home trips. If I have to run to the hardware store to get a few lightweight items, I will put on my helmet, backpack and throw my leg over the bike. My backpack can carry my items from the store and my bicycle locks. Yes, that was plural. I have a cable lock and a U-lock. People like to steal bicycle parts, so we must keep them locked up. Not doing so is the equivalent of pulling your car up to the front, leaving it running with the door open, as you go into the store to shop. It is a free invitation to lose possession of your mode of transportation.
Texas is not all that crowded, unlike NY, so getting around by car is pretty quick. My bicycle ride to the hardware store is only a couple of minutes longer than the drive there. If it is rush hour, I actually save 5-minutes by bicycle. Now if I am going to the grocery store during rush hour for a carton of milk and one or two other items, the bicycle wins by default. I save over 10-minutes versus the car, and it is literally across the street from the hardware store. What holds up the cars is that there is only one light that allows a left turn into the store parking lot. That light does not turn green often. So in many instances, there is a line of cars a football field long waiting to make the left into the lot. Every time it turns green, only about 40-yards of cars can get through, more if they are on top of their game (normally they are not). On my bicycle I avoid all of this. There is a nice path that takes me right to the store. I lock up my bike and I am in the store by the time the car even gets near the turn signal.
Most of the time the car wins when it comes down to length of time from point-A to point-B. What I love about cycling is that I get a little workout in while I commute. Sure it takes an extra 5 minutes to get to Target from my house, but I just spent a total of 11 minutes exercising as I rode my bike there. That means I gained 5 minutes of free exercise time. You just cannot beat that. Free exercise time. Plus you get to enjoy Mother Nature.
Still there are people who will not cave in enough to try to commute by bicycle. That is a shame to be honest. There is so much joy to be found by pedaling on two wheels. Did I mention that you save money? You lose time, yes, but you save money. Last I checked the gas station I passed listed gas prices at $3.50 a gallon for regular. It is time to use some grade school math. A typical car I see around here most likely gets about 21 miles-per-gallon in the city (mine does, so that is what we shall use). Using my trip to Target as a reference, the trip is about 3.1 miles by car (versus 2.7 by bike). Divide 3.50 by 21 to get gas cost per mile driven. That comes out to 16.7¢ a mile. Multiply that by the distance and you have almost 52¢ for a one-way trip to Target. So a round trip is $1.04. Many people would think that is not very much for a trip. Yet some of these people would complain if Starbucks raise their price for a caramel macchiato by $1.04. Funny how that works out. Yes I lose 5 minutes by traveling slower, but I save a dollar.
If I am in downtown Chicago, I would also have to pay for parking to shop as well, and that adds up too. So the $1 could quickly morph itself into $5 for a simple trip for milk and eggs. So why not ride and keep that cash in your pocket? You did work hard for it, might as well spend it on what you want. Bicycles do not cost all that much. Also they are easier to keep running than any car on the planet. If it breaks down, you simply push it. All the tools you would need for simple repairs can fit easily in your pocket. People may say, “That quality bike costs $350, do you realize how much I would have to ride to offset that cost?” Yes, you would need to ride a lot to offset that cost. On the other hand, how much did you spend on that car that you constantly have to throw money at for gas and oil changes? I am quite sure that cost outweighs the cost of the bicycle.
Then again, if you want to spend your money on not exercising and just getting to point-B faster, well, it is your choice. I will not force my views on someone who does not wish to hear them. However, most people would have stopped reading this a long time ago if that was the case.