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Category Archives: Anything Goes

Anything Goes Commute Challenge: 100% Bicycle

In the mid-90s I bought an inexpensive mountain bike to ride around town. I fell in love with that bike and rode it longer and longer distances until I realized I could do the 10 or so miles to my job in San Jose, not far from where I work today. I had rear rack to carry my clothes, a locker room with a shower at work, and a safe place to store my bike. My only issue was finding a bike-friendly route to get there.

The problem was that my office was across the freeway from my home and the only crossings were on high-speed, heavy-traffic roads. The answer came at my company’s health fair where a volunteer from the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition helped me find a less obvious, better freeway crossing plus a more mellow route along the bay. It was about an hour each way, so I only rode 1-2 times per week, and only during summer.

Bike Commuter

Riding a few miles south on that bayside route takes me to my current job near the San Jose airport, a 14 mile trip that’s half on moderate traffic roads and half on bay and creek trails. The more direct alternative is 11 miles on Central Expressway which has a wide shoulder, but cars moving at close to freeway speeds. Not my idea of fun. And strangely, the longer bay route is almost as fast since there are fewer stops.

The Advantages: Riding over two hours a day is a great way to get in shape. You can take it easy for base training or work hard in intervals for true training. With a good route like the Bay Trail you can get some fresh air and enjoy nature on the way to work. And it’s virtually free, about 5 cents per mile for bike wear and tear.

The Disadvantages: Finding a good route isn’t always easy and road construction can leave you stranded without options. You need to pack and carry clothes and preferably have a shower if your ride is over 8-10 miles. Unless you’re wanting the training time, longer rides are tough to do both ways every day. My route is windy in evening which adds 5-10 minutes. Riding a road bike to lunch may not be comfortable in your work clothes, and you’ll likely have limited bag space for shopping after work.

Pure Bicycle

The Upshot: A great way to get a workout if you have a good route and a shower at work, but don’t expect to do this kind of commute every day.

Next up in the Anything Goes Commute Challenge is VTA Light Rail. Can you guess how it will compare?

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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in Anything Goes, Around Town

 

Anything Goes Commute Challenge: Driving Solo

It’s the way the overwhelming majority of people get to work in the US: the single-occupant private automobile. Where workplaces sit on high-speed, crowded roads, far from neighborhoods where people live and without frequent or reliable transit available, driving can be the only option. I’m glad I have more transportation choices.

For the first eight years of my career, I drove to work exclusively. Even after I started dabbling in bike commuting I still drove alone 90% of the time, until a few years when I took a job five miles away. When the car trip takes 10-20 minutes vs 20-25 minutes by bike on a quiet neighborhood streets, it’s easy to make the switch.

Hwy 101 Freeway

My current job in San Jose is 11 miles from home in Mountain View. By car, it’s an 1.5 easy miles to the freeway, 9 miles on the freeway in the reverse commute direction and 1/2 mile from the freeway exit to the office. There’s little traffic in the morning and only moderate traffic in the evening, so it’s short by Silicon Valley standards: only 20-30 minutes.

The Advantages: My car commute has many advantages: I can leave when ever I want, I can wear whatever I want, and since we have a parking garage that connects to our building I don’t even have to bring an umbrella. I can listen to the radio and have my own private space. I can also do errands at lunch and before and after work.

The Disadvantages: In the car I can’t work, read, text or safely talk on the phone. Even with hands-free I find the phone conversations too distracting to be safe. Errands before or after work or at lunch are often not as convenient as expected. Due to bad traffic near the main shopping areas, even basic errands add an extra 10-15 minutes. Driving times are unpredictable. What’s usually 20 minutes can easily become 40 minutes with an accident on the freeway or extra traffic from a concert or other large event. Driving isn’t cheap either, which is why the US government sets mileage reimbursements at 56.5 cents per mile for business travel.

Anything Goes Driving

The Upshot: Driving is very convenient and comfortable with my short commute, but it’s not as cheap as it seems and I have to take other time out of my day to get exercise or read.

Next up in the Anything Goes Commute Challenge is bicycling to work. Can you guess how it will compare?

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Posted by on April 9, 2013 in Anything Goes, Around Town

 

Take the Anything Goes Commute Challenge

It’s the start of the second week of the 30 Days of Biking challenge and I’m a little bummed out when I hear everyone’s daily bike stories. I’m bummed because I’m at a trade show in Las Vegas for a week, and between the heavy workload during the day and running around town with co-workers and partners in the evening, I knew I couldn’t pledge to bike every day. Not to mention that the Las Vegas Strip is not known for being bike-friendly.

Las Vegas Strip

Rather than whine about not being able to participate in that challenge, I propose a new one: the Anything Goes Commute Challenge, a face-off between all possible transportation options for your work, school or other commute. Why? Because most people select one and stick to it without trying all options, including me.

When I started my current job over a year ago I researched options for my 10+ mile commute: drive, bike, light rail and train + bike. The plan was to try them all, compare them, and write up the results. But after riding Caltrain with my bike a few times I settled into a routine and more or less crossed other options off the list.

So here it is a year later and I’m finally compiling my results and will share them with you this week, barring excessive work or late-night partying. I doubt I’ll have many bike stories from Las Vegas to share.

Right Tool  for Trip

What about you? How many commute options have you tried? Two, perhaps three? Have you tried everything? Maybe you should take the Anything Goes Commute Challenge with me. I’d love to hear all about your varied commutes. I know some of you have some interesting commutes involving trail rides, bikes on ferries, running and roller skates. (Those were all from Californians, but I know there are creative people everywhere)

To join the challenge: Try two or more commute options during April. Think out of the box. There’s probably an option you haven’t tried yet, like the bus or multi-modal trips like bike + car. Record the distances, time spent in each mode and cost of the trip for each. If your work or school commute offers only one reasonable option, feel free to substitute another frequent destination such as a store or friend’s house.

On Monday, April 15, I will post my results give you details on evaluation criteria and how to enter. Note that there are no prizes since I’m not one of those sponsored bloggers who gets free stuff to give away. But I can give you a chance to be spotlighted on my blog during May, which is National Bike Month in the US. So take pictures. Lots of them (landscape preferred). The contest will end on April 30, so get started today!

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Posted by on April 7, 2013 in Anything Goes, Around Town

 
 
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