Archive for the ‘Bikes & Riding’ Category

Reducing eco-impact in the daily commute

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

I want to reduce my gas consumption and my carbon footprint. But little by little, I’m getting talked out of my bike commuting plans. Several people in the past few weeks have expressed concern over the lack of shoulder in several places on the road I’d be riding along with the speed of traffic on the road, particularly relative to a (slow) cyclist.

I’m gradually coming to the conclusion that, dammit, they’re probably right.

So now I’m left wondering what I want to do about my commute. Besides commuting by bike, I’ve decided to catalog the options I’m weighing, and see if anyone has any other suggestions:

  • I was willing to trade off lots of time (a daily three hours of bike commuting vs. 50 minutes on average by car on the highway) in order to get to zero, so I should be willing to make the same or similar concessions if I can lower my ecological impact. For example, if I were to buy a hybrid car, it would mean shuffling around some financial plans to accommodate it, but that should be no less inconvenient, in some ways, than the bike commute would have been.

    On the other hand, I was actually looking forward to the quiet time on the bike, whereas I’m not so eager to spend ~$20K on a new car. On the third hand, I do rather like being alive and don’t want to risk life and limb just to be stubborn about being a zero-carbon commuter.

  • Carpooling is a possibility. Unfortunately, no one I work with lives in my neighborhood, so there are no obvious arrangements. A few of my neighbors work in the same suburb I do, so I could pursue sharing rides with them if we can compromise on work hours. And some of my coworkers live on the east side of town, which is easy enough to get to. We’ve tried a few times to have Karsten drop me off at a designated meeting spot, like a gas station en route to the highway, and that’s been reasonably successful, but all of the carpool options do require conforming to a work schedule that may or may not suit my day-to-day needs. On the other hand, bike commuting would have been even more restrictive, since my choice would be to ride during daylight hours, and that means much shorter workdays than I’m used to. Not at all a bad thing, but a big adjustment either way.
  • Another option, albeit one I have less direct control over, is to try to work out a telecommute arrangement with my employer. I have experience with successfully introducing this arrangement in other workplaces, and there is sort of a precedent for it here — we have associates in remote locations already, so it’s not as if we don’t know how to get our jobs done when we’re not face-to-face. But this doesn’t seem like an easy sell and it probably wouldn’t be an immediate change, even if all parties agreed on the terms of a telecommute arrangement.
  • Finally, so as not to ignore obvious options, I could always quit my current job and find work closer to home (or freelance and work from home full-time). But I like what I’m doing, so I’m not ready to explore that option — especially not before I’ve explored the telecommute option.
  • I suppose another obvious option that should be stated is to move closer to work. This, however, is simply not going to happen. Karsten and I love our house and our neighborhood; our remaining happy in Nashville is heavily contingent on feeling as if we’re in a charming urban oasis in a sea of strange Southern suburban sameness. It’s one thing to work in the suburbs — exurbs, even — but living there would make me go postal.

    Other than that, I’m out of ideas. Anyone out there have any novel approaches for reducing ecological impact on the daily work commute?

  • Get a car off the road AND get a great workout? Sure!

    Sunday, July 20th, 2008

    My planned bike commute route, and first attemptI’ve only done one practice ride and I didn’t even make it all the way, but I think it’s still feasible enough to say it out loud: I may become a bike commuter.

    Mind you, my commute route is 18.14 miles long (according to Google maps), over hilly middle Tennessee terrain (according to my legs). It’ll be one hell of a workout. But on the plus side: it’ll be one hell of a workout! I’ll never have to visit a gym again.

    Except, of course, that part of the logistics involve visiting a gym every morning. Part of what makes this possible is that the Cool Springs YMCA is mere blocks from, so I can shower at the Y and coast downhill to work.

    My next step is to try another test ride, this time with some of the gear I might use to commute. If I go through with this plan, I’ll need to invest in:

    • lights and reflectors to be safe on the ride back after work
    • panniers to carry change of clothes, laptop, and miscellaneous stuff
    • neon-bright bike wardrobe that protects against leg chafing — definitely an issue yesterday

    Me at the farmers marketAnd yes, I probably want to buy a new bike. I love my fun and adorable cruiser for riding around town, but I gather that a road bike would make the long ride much easier and more efficient. But I want to be sure I’ll actually do this before I invest in a commuting bike.

    Because there are several other considerations: I’d also want to try to adjust my schedule so that I leave the house as early as daylight will allow and leave the office while there’s still enough light left to avoid riding home in the dark, at least for now. If I do this through the winter it’ll be pretty tough to avoid riding in the dark, since it’s already pretty dark by 5 most days in December. Not to mention what it might be like to ride that far in the cold.

    But December is a long ways away, and the conditions now are pretty much opposite: plenty of daylight, and too much heat for comfort.

    Still, I’m excited. I really want to do this. If I could manage to do it five days a week, I’d be riding 180 miles, saving 175 lbs of CO2, burning 8,460 calories, and saving almost $40 in gas costs each and every week.

    Any one of those numbers would be incredibly motivating, but all of them together? How could I not give this a go?

    New bikes!


    Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

    Just got email from the Nashville blogger known as Chez Bez, who was reminded by my last post that he thought he caught a picture of me and Karsten riding our bikes downtown during the jazz festival a few weeks ago. Sure enough, there we were (fourth picture down).

    I had mentioned riding bikes downtown that weekend in a comment on Metroblogging but forgot to write about it here. (ETA: Actually now that I re-read my comment, I guess I was talking about running downtown with Karsten riding his bike beside me. But the next day, we both rode our bikes back down there, so that’s when Chez Bez’s pic was taken.) That’s some pretty cool serendipity.

    We love riding along the riverfront to downtown. There’s a great little ice cream parlor on Broadway called Mike’s and they have an awesome chocolate peanut butter flavor. It’s a real treat to ride through the downtown greenway to Riverfront Park, go up Broad a block or two to Mike’s, get a cone, and then carefully (so as not to drip melting ice cream!) ride back over to the riverfront to sit on one of the benches near Fort Nashborough and look out over the river. And it’s only going to get better.

    I’m so happy to be in Nashville.