Commuting - Or What I Did Last Summerby Cheryl Brawner
As a follow-up to my previous article, which I wrote at the beginning of my summer commuting experiment, I thought I’d give you a brief synopsis of my experiences (i.e., pros and cons).
First, let me say that the most major upside of riding home almost everyday is my elevated fitness level. I haven’t been this fit since I was racing, and I was riding longer, more strenuous miles back then. My commute is only 50-60 minutes long, albeit I rode it every day in the heat of the afternoon. I seem to climb better, although my ride home is almost flat. I can only attribute this strange effect to the fact that my loaded-down commuter/mountain bike is so much heavier and less nimble that my road bike, and those wide tires made for mucho road resistance. Plus I even seem to be sprinting better, even though I didn’t do much speed work (albeit I often made it a game to try to catch the rider in front of me and leave him — almost always a him — in my dust!). It was much easier to trim down and keep the weight off, and I hope that my going back to driving won’t completely negate this phenomenon this winter! Hopefully, the Trainer Tours will help with this.
The psychological impact it had on me was, for the most part, a positive one. I looked forward to my evening ride almost every day, but I must admit, there were times after a long day at work, especially towards the end of the summer, I wished for a quicker, easier way home! The conditions of the bike facilities got me down, too (since maintenance of the bike lanes and paths, or the lack thereof, works my last nerve!). Drivers who had little patience for slower-moving vehicles that were impeding their progress home were also an aggravation.
And then there was the ever-present hassle factor. I did have to plan ahead on packing my riding clothes, gloves, sunglasses, water bottle, lunch, etc. Did I forget anything? When I did drive, I had to lug my collection of coffee mugs, Tupperware and wardrobe to the car. Plus I was relegated to using the service elevator in my office building.
TARC — a mixed experience here. I was fortunate to make some new friends on the bus, and it was a pleasure in this respect. I will miss seeing them and our driver, who kindly “knelt” the bus so it would be easier for me to put my hefty bike on the rack. However, waiting for the bus, which rarely came at the same time everyday, while standing in the grass alongside Brownsboro Road amid the throngs of belching cars and trucks, choking me with their fumes, was not fun. To humor myself, I would count the single passenger vehicles, which usually numbered 9 to 1 (1 being more than one passenger) at best. The other negative was the not-too-sweet-smelling folks who sometimes ride the bus. I had to move more than once just to be able to breathe. But those were the only downsides — when gas shot up to almost $4 a gallon, I really gloated at those “cagers” crying the blues at the pump! Which makes for a perfect segue to the next upside....
Money saved! Let’s do the math — $90 per month for parking, $15+/- per week (at 4.25 weeks per month, this equals approximately $64) for fuel. I figure that, if I had driven the four days out of the week that I normally rode, I would be adding 60 miles a week to my odometer, making it over 1,000 miles that I saved my wonderful old Toyota! Who knows how much wear and tear it saved my beloved beater! Considering I only drove my car 5,000 miles last year, this amounts to 20% less mileage for 2005! TARC cost 75 cents a trip, which probably cost around $50 altogether. Maintenance on my bike? Two tubes ($10) plus added features to accommodate my commute — semi-slick tires, pannier rack and trunk bag, amounting to $70 altogether. Let’s just call it a draw — car maintenance to bike upgrades. So, I figure I have saved approximately $140 or more per month by TARCing and riding my bike. That’s a sizeable chunk of change in my book. Not to mention the fact that I’m going to have to join the Humana gym at $35 per month to keep the winter weight off!
That being said, the days are getting shorter, and will no doubt become chillier soon. And trying to find monthly parking anywhere near National City Tower is downright tough! Hence, when I called PARC today and they finally had a slot available at The Center starting on October 1, I hesitantly (yes,I did hesitate) went for it. Okay, call me a sellout. But at least I tried it for four months, and I am proud of it (very few other folks would, right?), and I might well do it again. But for now, I’ll take the convenience, safety and comfort of my Corolla through the following wintry months, or at least until gas prices call me back to the bus/bike!
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web posted: 13 November 2005
last updated: 14 November 2005