The Truth about Bicycle Commuting

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I’m not quite sure if bicycle commuting was ever about saving money on gas.  Not really.  It’s merely a net transfer of costs from one thing, gas, to another, food.  Let’s be real, everything needs energy to move.  Your car needs gasoline, your body needs food and lots of it if you’re going to be biking 14 miles a day between work/school/home.  All bicycle commuting is, is a net transfer of cost, in the end you’ll be spending money, regardless of what it’s on.  The positive externalities that result from you biking though, that’s what matters.  You’re making yourself less reliant on a scarce resource. You’re saving the environment, you’re being a lot healthier, and you’ll be saving some money on car upkeep.  So in a way, you’re indirectly saving quite a bit of money on other things.  I’m not a gungho bicyclist where I would ever get rid of my car though.  Hell no.  I love driving, the individuality my car gives me and road trips on the weekends way too much for that, but by cutting down on city stop n’ go miles, you’re actually prolonging the life of your engine and transmission with less wear and tear.  Just by bicycling 3-4 days out of the week, you’ll notice that how many miles you’re not racking up on the odometer.  If you’re getting rid of your car all together and don’t have to pay parking cost, then yes, you’d be saving a ton of money.  If you live in Boston, bike and don’t need a car, then yes you’re saving a ton of money but if you’re living in Boston, you have a much higher cost of living anyways.  Sigh, there really is no free lunch except saving the environment and exercise.  Those are definitely things you get for free, if you bike.

There are downsides that I’ve realized.  Some places where it’s always cold and windy as hell such as San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Maine, Vermont are good for bicycle commuting.  I’m in the South where it’s horrifically humid up to December…well then, I think bicycle commuting only works for a select few.  You’re either a student, where you can just arrive to class sweating your ass off and looking like a wet turd or you’re the boss, and have your own private shower to refresh yourself.  Commuting just doesn’t work in weather like this if you need to arrive somewhere presentable because I guarantee you by the 2nd mile, you will be drenched.  I don’t care if you’re riding fixed gear, single speed, 25 gear etc, you’re gonna get soaked in sweat.  I can do it because I don’t really care how I look when I arrive to class but I guarantee you if I have anyone to meet for an interview, I’ll be driving.  Over the summer while i was interning full time, I was still able to get away with biking because there was a pretty relaxed dress code.  But if I had a full time office job, than commuting would not be a possibility unless I lived a couple blocks away from work.

These are all things that you must decide upon if you decide to commute.  Plan to eat at least 2 extra hearty meals a day if you commute via bike.  Eat breakfast and always get a good night sleep.  When you commute, you really need a routine to stick to and you need to plan very carefully how you will go about your day’s objectives.  Random trips that go out of the way are no longer possible since every extra trip will take longer on a bicycle.

Bicycle commuting isn’t for everyone.  A lot of cities in the United States still don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate bicycle commuters so it’s important to map out routes in potentially dangerous or hilly areas in order to maximize and efficiently use your body’s energy.

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