Happy National Bike to Work Week (May 14-18)! Miranda Martin, an acquisitions assistant at the MIT Press, recently started biking to the office. Here, she shares what John Forester's Effective Cycling, seventh edition has taught her about cycle-commuting:
Of the handful of us in the MIT Press office who commute to work by bike, I’m the least experienced by several years: this is my first cycling season. I had no experience riding a bike in traffic or farther than a couple of miles until this spring, but I had an urge to try it. (That urge by the way, sprang up in part from my work on MIT Press’s books about bicycling.)
So, I set off with a more experienced partner one Saturday a few weeks ago to test what would be my ten-mile ride to work. The distance initially daunted me, and according to cyclist John Forester in the brand-new edition of Effective Cycling, endurance is a common concern: “When most people consider cycling for any distance, they worry about getting tired.”
Forester goes on to explain that “the cycle-commuting distance problem is not fatigue but time. You know that you will feel better for any daily cycling exercise for which you can afford the time; the question is whether you can afford the time to get it.” I did feel great after that first ride, both because of the exercise and the boost in confidence I got from cycling—effectively—20 miles in one day for the first time. But is there time to fit that ride into a regular workday schedule?
To kick off Bike Week here in Massachusetts, LivableStreets Alliance, Somerville Bicycle Committee, and Cambridge Bicycle Committee hosted a Rush Hour Race: a competition for one cyclist, one motorist, and one public transit rider to find the fastest way to travel the three miles between Davis and Kendall Squares in Cambridge. The cyclist won, showing that at least sometimes, in some places, it’s quicker to go by bike.
Here’s how it works out for me: on days I take public transit to work, I typically spend about 55 minutes total walking to my neighborhood commuter rail station, riding the train, transferring to the subway, and arriving at the office. Last week, I used Google’s My Tracks app to gather some statistics about my bike commute. Total time for the ten-mile ride to work: one hour and one minute.
So, on average, I’m getting an hour of cycling at a cost of only six extra minutes of my time. And on days I happen to avoid even a small public-transit delay by riding my bike instead, I come out ahead and have a much more pleasant experience.
As Forester sums it up, “If you enjoy cycling, whether for itself or because you like the exercise, cycle-commuting is a bargain” when it comes to the time costs.