Driving Less, Biking More

Michael Giberson

As mentioned earlier, since moving to Lubbock to teach at Texas Tech, I’ve been bike commuting. This is actually not much of a sacrifice most of the time; it is only about a mile from home to office, and the trip takes me only 10 minutes on the bike.

One week I acquired a temporary parking pass in order to manage a particularly hectic schedule. It turned out that no spaces were available in the lots closest to my office, and the nearest spots required circling around to enter on the farther side of campus and a 3 or 4 minute walk. While necessary off-campus trips that week made it worth the trouble, on ordinary work days the bike is easier to manage.

As it happened, that was also the week of the heaviest rainfall recorded in Lubbock, about 8 inches in a 24-hour period, so I missed that chance to bike in the rain. Yesterday it rained again, and I managed to stay reasonably dry on my bike with a rain jacket and pants.

John Baden, chairman of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment in Bozeman, Montana, has also been bike commuting a little more. In his case, however, living on a working ranch 10 miles outside of town, a bike commute is a lot more trouble. One day he asked himself, “How hard would it be to go about a normal day using only a bike?” He decided to find out, and wrote about it in July:

I bike a lot, one year just over 5,000 miles, so this was a pleasing challenge. I experimented and found it enjoyable, but a bit stressful….

First, I rode to work. This is a pleasant 10-mile, 40-minute trip with one hill. This commute took only twice the drive time. I had a lunch meeting and riding there took 17 minutes and back to work the same. After lunch I rode back home to check ranch irrigation and talk with a hand.

I had another meeting at 3:00 to debrief FREE’s conference on environmental breakthroughs. If I were to be on time, I’d have to push hard to make it. Another 10 miles. Biking home after the meeting brought the day to exactly 50 miles, a savings of some two gallons of fuel, about $10.

My average speed was 14 MPH, about one third what a car would average on these trips. Biking saved a little money, but cost me nearly two hours. This implies my time is worth less than minimum wage. (And I discounted to zero the time spent showering to make myself presentable for appointments.)

He concluded that even if gasoline prices rose to $10 or $20 a gallon, biking would still not always be the practical alternative. However, as prices rise there would be “economizing on the margins.”

More recently Baden wrote on bike commuting again. Baden said, “Accidents and injuries raise the cost of cycling. Reduce them and more folks will ride.” To that end he urged greater attention to both public and private aspects involved: better maintenance of bike lanes (keeping them free of debris, enforcing ‘no parking’ restrictions) and more frequent safe cycling practices by cyclists:

First, obey traffic laws. Don’t ride with headphones. Always wear a helmet. Don’t wear dark clothing, the functional equivalent of camouflage at dusk. Instead wear bright colors. If someone hits you, be dressed as though it must have been an intentional act, not a result of your negligence.

Good advice.

3 thoughts on “Driving Less, Biking More

  1. As parking has become sparse at my office I have started either walking or biking to work. One of the positives, in addition to small savings on gas, is the fact that it’s healthy. I’m overweight and the extra calorie burn is a plus. Mind you biking to and from work (about a mile) won’t solve my weight problem but it will contribute and is better than the zero exercise that I have been getting recently. I have in the past lost a considerable amount of weight just going on a lengthy bike ride almost daily.

  2. I lost about 10 pounds in the first 6-8 weeks, and seem to have stabilized at that level.

    I wouldn’t mind losing another 10-15 pounds, but it looks like I’ll actually have to work for it.


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