Thursday, March 06, 2008

Traffic Signals. The Grand Equalizer.

Bike. bus.
Bike. work.
Bike. bus.
Bike. home.
Bike. electronics store.
Bike. grocery store
Bike. convenience store (I forgot something at the grocery store)
Bike. home.

You'd think with all that bike I'd have racked up at least ten miles today, but alas it wasn't quite. 8 Distinct trips -- some chained together, mind you. 9.5 miles.

Truth is, my bike is awesome for this kind of stuff. And it's no secret to those of us who ride for the little errands that a bike can be just as fast as a car if not quicker. On my way back from the grocery store, I was behind this sweet Audi S4. A typical suburban couple occupied this marvel of modern automotive engineering. Three hundred forty horsepower. Advanced automatic all-wheel-drive. Piercing High-Intensity-Discharge lights. A purring tone from the exhaust. The light turned green and it took off quickly. Not fast. Certainly not as fast as it could if the driver were pushing this track-worthy sedan to five nines. I pedaled. And pedaled. And a quarter mile later I'm stopping behind the S4 again. This continued for the entirety of two miles. Both of us had an average speed of maybe 8 miles per hour for those two miles if you count the stopped time. While I never busted 22 miles per hour (why bother?), the S4 probably got up to 45 or so just in time to hit the brakes again. And wait. And wait. While my DiNotte and NiteRider grew brighter and closer in the rear view mirror.

Bike commuting and utility cycling doesn't have to be about the 30-mile round trip from suburban hell to your job in the Big City. I used the bus today and that took a lot of miles off of my total, and any one of these little trips that I ran, almost all of my neighbors would have driven for. With as much fuel is burned starting a car, and with the car's emissions systems being disabled (and/or too cold to function properly) for the first few minutes of operation, it's these little trips -- the easy ones that even someone who is out of shape could make on a bike -- that are killing your pocket books at the pump.

If you haven't figured it out by now, there are so many awesome reasons to pick up a bike and ride now that it's close to spring-like weather again. And it's not just about the environment or your wallet.

I sound like a fanatic here, but everything really is different and for the most part better on a bicycle. You can say hi (and get one back) to people walking their dogs or jogging. You can feel the wind in your hair. You can feel better physically and mentally. You can regulate your metabolism and get a better night's rest. You can see things without the slight green tint that auto manufacturers put on auto glass to keep UV rays from fading the interior. You can explore. You can go at your own pace.

And you know what? You might just find that your own pace isn't much slower than that sports car in front of you at the stop light.


Sirrus Rider said...

The only downside (if you can call it that) is that for longer distances than 3 miles is the need to suit up in a proper pair of cycling shorts or if it's cold to have the proper cold-weather cycling gear.

During the warmer months I can usually get around the constant changing by wearing my cycling gear under regular clothing. The problem with this is cycling shorts feel rather confining compared to regular underwear.

I have to agree though that in some cases it's not any slower than to go by car. I can usually make the 5 miles to the grocery store in 15 minutes on the trike and do it with less wear and tear to that vehicle then the same trip with a car. Typically, a car does not warm up and burn all the moisture out of the engine during such a short trip.

Noah said...

My breaking point is 10 miles in s single sitting. Less than that, I don't do anything special. More than that, and I wear a padded liner under my clothes. I don't have any "kits" or bike-specific stuff save for one set of mountain bike shorts that came with a liner. The shorts are trashed now but the liner's still fine. I just wear it under normal shorts (or jeans, cargo pants etc this time of year)

I've gotten along since September 19, 2006 without buying wholly into cycling clothing... but again, that's me. And as I've said before, all commuters borrow tricks and gear from other kinds of cycling and use them as they see fit. Padded liners, panniers and clipless shoes for long rides is about as invested as I've gotten outside the cost of my bikes and safety gear (helmet, lighting and locks)

Yokota Fritz said...

Right on. Have you seen my bike vs bus race video? I race the VTA 522 bus down El Camino Real for 20 miles -- the bus beats me by about 10 minutes, which isn't bad considering that this is the "Rapid" bus service with traffic light priority.

I can go 10 miles or longer without bike shorts or liner, but I can't really do it multiple days in a row before I get painful scabs in my nether regions. Not good.

Speaking of the fuel used in starting up engines: I learned recently that the M1A2 Abrams tank requires 11 gallons of fuel for a cold start.

Noah said...

I didn't commute with a liner at all this winter, and I was riding about 6 miles on back-to-back days on average or about 3 miles per trip. No ill effects. But there's a lot of factors such as your anatomy (I gained some "padding" over the winter) your riding position, and the type and shape of saddle.

11 Gallons? I actually chuckled out loud reading that.

Noah said...

Oh, and the bike race? I haven't seen that one, but I did see the London Morning Rush hour video. Bike, SUV, Transit and Boat (on the Thames) that Top Gear did. Hamster kicked ass on his little S-Works Sirrus.

MRMacrum said...

Good post. I liked it. Matter of fact IMO, one of your best.

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