Thursday, February 4, 2010


A note about the bridge meeting, before our regularly scheduled post:
When I arrived (after biking over the Western Ave Bridge, which required aggressively taking the lane)
I was a little disappointed that there were only 8 or 10 bikes outside,  but the hall was full, and there were lots of people who spoke in favor of bicycle access improvements.  I think that they will take that seriously as design begins, but I think the the cycling community needs to stay involved to make sure bicycles are taken into consideration not only over the bridge, but at the nasty intersections on both ends.

I was leaving for work the other day, when I ran into an acquaintance of mine on the sidewalk.  During our conversation, she mentioned that her husband had started to walk to work- a trip of about 35 minutes each way.  That's considered a long way to walk, but it's about the same amount of time as my bike to work.

Tom Vanderbilt, in his book Traffic   made an interesting point, that human settlements have historically been limited to the radius of 30 minutes trip by whatever transportation method was available at the time.  For example, Medieval hill towns tend to have a radius of about 1  1/2 miles,  making a trip from the center to a field on the edge took about 30 minutes to walk.  Somehow that 30 minutes seems to be a convenient time for humans to travel-  long enough to get into the rhythm or mindset of the travel,  short enough not to get bored.

For me, the combination of physical exercise with that 30 minute transition is one of my favorite things about bike commuting.   It's a chance to wake up in the morning.  It's a way to decompress and put the cares of the day behind me on the way home.  I find that I can't concentrate too hard on anything when I'm exercising- partly because I'm having to stay alert in traffic, but even when I run,  I just can't focus on specifics.  It's  sort of a zen thing for me- I can think about things in a kind of foggy big picture way,  and my mind can work on a problem without getting too bogged down in the details-  it's actually a pretty good way to process things.  Even though the ride itself can be stressful in an immediate fight or flight sort of way when someone passes too close,  I find I react differently to those traffic interactions than I would conflict off the bike.

How long is your commute?   Does it calm you,  or stress you out?


  1. That 30 minut theory is interesting and I think there may be something to it. My commute consists of three 30 minute portions. Yes, it's a lot longer than I'd like. Perhaps that why it divided itself into 30 minute segments. When I had an hour commute, I'd note the halfwy point.

  2. I enjoy long commutes. My favourite was when I worked at a college in Northern New England and lived 20+ miles away. I got up very early and drove to work along a winding rural road - passing beautiful mountain views and farms with horses along the way. It was calming and it helped me prepare mentally for the day.

    Now I live in the city and cycle, but do not have a job with standard office hours. So my "commutes" are mostly to local cafes (where I work instead of sitting at home), to various supplies stores, and to meetings. None are longer than 15 minutes. To tell the truth, I do not really enjoy these rides all that much. The times I enjoy riding my bicycle are long, recreational rides, that preferably lead out of town.

    I would probably find a 30 minute commute through the city stressful. But I would love a 30 minute commute along a country road.

  3. My bike commute is about 45 minutes long. It is mostly calming but can be stressful depending on the other road users (cars, bikes, buses, trucks, pedestrians - everyone else!).

    About half my commute is on the bike path on the Charles and even there the other path users can be really stressful. Sometimes taking the road instead would be more calming.

  4. My bike commute is 20 minutes through the downtown portion of the city. Because I cross the river I get to divide it into three stages - Boston, Bridge, Cambridge. To me the crossing of the water is the most important for a mental transition. My husband and I had that together when we were dating, and when we lived in Paris. Now he doesn't cross the river and that's his primary complaint about his commute.

  5. My bike commute is about 30 minutes in the morning and closer to 40 in the evening. It's just shy of 9 miles one-way. You're absolutely correct about the decompression time. I arrive at work or home relaxed and ready to go. As I think back, that's quite different from when I lived in St. Louis right out of college and commuted from Kirkwood to downtown and back. In those days, it drove my wife nuts because as soon as I got home, I just wanted to go out in the back yard and be alone for 30 minutes. Not a good situation for a young mother staying home all day with two little ones!

  6. I don't have a commute either, but I did quickly fall into a pattern of cycling to get the paper most days - 30 mins down country lanes (and yes, it is very pleasant, weather depending). Prior to that my commutes were an hour plus each way, by train and bike, and definitely too long...

  7. My commute length depends upon the weather. The most direct route from my home in Delmar, NY to where I work in downtown Albany is about 5 miles. This time of year that means ice and slush. I use a single-speed cross bike with studded tires. It takes less than 30 minutes. When it is above 40 degrees and dry, I have longer routes, between 10 to 30 miles. I use my road bike, a Serrotta Colorado III.

  8. Hiya! I saw you on the Open blog and recognized you from the DOT meeting. I, too, was relieved that bikes were being taken into consideration, but kind of infuriated that it seemed like 80% of the people called on were there to talk about BOAT safety. I didn't like the attitude/tone many people were taking like the whole meeting was held to cater to cyclists - someone opened their comment with something like "Well, I don't ride a BIKE or anything, but I drive over those bridges..."

    Sorry, that meeting was filled with people who loved to hear their own voices and apparently I wanted to rant about it!