Is bicycling faster?

Over on Commute By Bike blog Tim Grahl posed a question from Rob about whether commuting by bicycle is faster than commuting by car.

The answer is probably no but possibly yes. And also, yes. And no.

What I mean is that for most people it isn't unless you count certain other things with it.

The most basic answer is that unless you live close to work in a place with either low speed limits of lots of traffic, the actual time you spend cycling will be more than driving. If you live and work on Manhattan island in NYC then odds are pretty good it is faster to cycle than to drive. Same goes for Chicago, Boston before the completion of the Big Dig (not sure of the traffic situation now), Seattle, parts of San Francisco and maybe parts of LA. Almost everywhere else is likely faster to drive. Even here in San Diego I'd be hard pressed to find a 10 mile route that is covered faster on bicycle than motor vehicle. (Except maybe on really bad traffic days.)

So...probably no, but possibly yes.

However, there are other factors that go into making commuting by bicycle take less time (rather than be faster). One such factor is the reason I started commuting by bicycle in the first place, exercise. Let's say that I drive to work everyday. It takes me about 45 minutes each way (maybe less in the mornings and more in the evenings) so that is 1.5 hours. I then go to the gym and workout for 1 hour. That one hour is the amount of time I spend on my bicycle in a regular commute. The time I spend getting ready for the gym is the same as the time I would spend getting ready to ride my bike and the same goes for cleaning up afterwards. This means I spend 2.5 hours each day commuting and exercising. My commute is currently 3.5 hours each day.

I know, I personally don't make a great example for this reasoning but you can see how this would make sense for someone who spends more time at the gym or riding their bike. (Of course, in my case, I wouldn't be going to the gym anyway, I would just be slowly expanding like the Grand Canyon.)

Or if you use public transportation as part of your commute, you can accomplish other things that you can't when you are driving. I, for one, write most of my blog posts on the train. Many people get some reading done or do other work.

Another thing that might count towards the time it takes is how long it takes you to unwind from work and your drive home. Perhaps you come home and need to spend an hour or even just 15 minutes decompressing and relaxing. Most cyclists enjoy their afternoon commute as a way to clear their minds and relax. So that makes cycling a timesaver.

Also it saves you money and helps the environment and helps forge community and blah blah all the other reasons.

Really, give it a try. Three days. (Like most things you won't be really comfortable with it until you've done it a few times.) I promise that you will find that you enjoy commuting by bicycle and all of its benefits. Even if it's just a some days thing and not an everyday thing.


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