A few weeks ago, Velouria posted about the way bicycles are generally viewed as leisure instruments, a way of getting around that is less efficient than driving. This is sometimes true, but sometimes not; in compact cities with traffic or parking problems, it is less likely to be the case. It’s no secret that I use my car sometimes. In Nashville there are plenty of places I can’t get to safely or quickly by bike, and since traffic here is generally minimal and parking nearly always free, there are few incentives to spend the extra time or take a ride that would be stressful, dangerous and/or end at a place with nowhere to safely park my bike (this is a shame, but that’s a digression for another post).
But it got me wondering whether it was true that my commute to work by bike takes longer than it does for me to drive, so I started paying more attention to the time it was taking me to get there.
The first time I rode my bike along my commute route was a Saturday in April; my friend P. was along on her Dahon. It felt like flying; the speed, the rush of air!
Then I realized maybe I was wrong about the “speed”: It took almost 20 minutes for me to ride the 2.5 miles to my office. Over the next three years, I seemed to get a bit faster, but my mental rule of thumb was that my commute by car took 10-12 minutes while commute by bike took 15-17 minutes. Not a big difference, but enough that on days I was running late I would often take the car to save that all-important 5 minutes. I take different routes by bike and car, and the driving route is shorter, so that played a part in my perception of driving as faster as well.
All this is a long-winded way of saying: My average bicycle commute is actually about 12 minutes, and I timed my first 10-minute ride to work a couple of weeks ago. Whereas my drive time has not gotten any faster over the past 3 years, my cycling times definitely have.
Although I know this won’t be true in all cases, it’s something to keep in mind for those who list time as a reason not to try riding to work. Now “humidity” and “heavy rain” are looking pretty lonely on my excuses for not riding list.