Friday, July 16, 2010

Work Commute: Bike vs Bus

Riding in a skirt
Jamis Explorer that I use to commute,
but not usually in these clothes
and I swap the basket with grocery bag
panniers for better maneuverability
My primary modes of getting to work without a car are riding my bike or the bus, so I thought I would compare the two looking at various factors: time, flexibility, cost, multitasking, exercise, weather, cargo, route, and effortIs there an important factor I left out that I should consider?

As you will see, there is no clear winner with each having their share of advantages and disadvantages. It's almost a draw most days, but other circumstances usually make one more attractive on any given day. If I lived closer to work, and I was not training for a marathon (or 3) the bike would probably win every time.

Time (draw)

Both take roughly the same amount of time, about 1.5 hours, to arrive to work from when I leave my apartment. This is the total time including walking to/from bus stop, waiting for the bus to arrive, or waiting at lights/intersections when biking. I have to allow time to shower when I get to work if I bike, but I don't necessarily see that as added travel time since I have to shower before I leave when I take the bus.

Flexibility (+1 bike)

When riding the bus, I am restricted to a fixed time schedule and speed -- the bus only comes every 30 minutes and stops frequently. Biking to work is more flexible and I can potential make up time by biking faster if I'm running late. If I am running late for the bus and I miss it, even by a few minutes, I automatically add 30 minutes to my commute.

Cost (+1 bike)

It is $2 per trip, one way, to ride the bus or $50 a month if I buy a bus pass. Biking is free, although there is the occasional maintenance cost like replacing tubes, etc. I lost my bus pass a few days after buying it, so Jason and I have been sharing his further reducing our cost. This has worked for the past few weeks because we've been biking and taking the bus on different days due to our workout schedules. On days when we both ride, I pay cash and he uses the bus pass. If our schedules remain the same, we may continue doing this and just alternate who buys the pass each month. The pass is only cost-effective because we are not biking as often as we'd like due to training for the other sports, but it is also more convenient than having exact change every time we need to take the bus.

Multitasking (+1 bus)

I can do other things while I ride the bus, such as read a book/email/news, play games on my iPhone, knit (when I learn) or listen to music/news. Other than exercising while I commute, I can't multitask while I bike (except maybe listening to music/news/book, but riding while wearing headphones is illegal). Biking does give me time to think, and I suppose I could use my phone or other recording device to record notes.

Exercise (+1 bike)

If I take the bus, I walk a total of 2.5 miles (less than 1 hour) to/from bus stop. When I bike, it is 29 miles roundtrip or 2-2.5 hours of exercise a day. Bike is a bit more strenuous than walking, although I try to ride at a somewhat leisurely pace so I am not too exhausted to work and it doesn't affect my running workouts. Sometimes I walk/ride a little less or a little extra depending on which office I go to or if I make a detour to the store on the way home, but the difference is usually 1-2 miles at most.

Cargo (draw)

When I bike to work, I need to bring a change of clothes, bike repair kit (tube, tools, pump), extra water, and extra food. Sometimes I plan ahead and bring things to work the day prior to biking, but that doesn't always happen. I have a grocery pannier on my bike where I keep all this stuff (I need a 2nd to better balance my bike), and 2 water bottle cages on my bike. I also have a rear rack and basket (which I usually remove) if I need to carry more stuff. Carrying more stuff affects my balance and maneuverability on the bike, specially in the front basket, but it's not too bad.

When I ride the bus, I still carry a tote bag full of stuff. I need to bring lunch, and sometimes breakfast if I am running late, and never leave home without my Kleen Kanteen water bottle. I bring headphones and mp3 player to keep me entertained. I sometimes carry extra clothes or food so I don't have to when I bike the next day. If it's going to rain, I may carry an umbrella or poncho. It is actually harder to carry more when I take the bus because I have to walk 1-2 miles with the stuff, whereas on the bike I just roll.

Weather (+1 bus)

If it is raining, I only have to deal with it for a short while while walking to the bus stop and I can use an umbrella/poncho. Riding in the rain requires a lot more gear and is just not very pleasant unless it is a light drizzle. Heat is another factor, and as long as I stay hydrated is not too awful on the bike. Since the humidity is a bit insane, I usually wear workout clothes to walk to the bus then change when I get to work.

Route (+1 bike)

We are really fortunate that our 15 mile bike ride to work is mostly on trails. We spend about 6 miles total on roads the entire ride. Riding on the Econ Trail is gorgeous and I always see at least one bunny and lots of other fauna. The bus roue is a direct shot along Colonial Dr with a detour to VCC. It stops a lot, so that is why it takes longer than driving, but the stops are less frequent or quicker depending on the time of day.

Effort (+1 bus)

Obviously, it takes more effort to spend over an hour pedaling to work than seating on a bus, even if I ride slow, so some days the decision not to bike to work is based on my level of exhaustion or body aches. However, there are other additional considerations that take effort when commuting to work regardless of method.

I need to bring a change of clothes because it's not feasible to bike 15 miles in my work clothes in the Florida heat without being a sweaty, smelly mess when I get to work. I need to bring supplies to take a shower (towels, toiletries). I  keep a set of these at work, but do have to monitor them to replace them when they start running low. I need to bring more food because I need more calories on days I bike. I need additional gear to bike than to walk to the bus, i.e. helmet, gloves, bike tools, water bottles, etc. So yeah, a lot to consider. I try to pack my bag the night before, but that doesn't always happen, so that means getting up earlier to do it in the morning.

Commuting by the bus takes some effort too. I still need to get up on time and time everything just right so that I don't miss the bus or stand out there for too long (I always do because the bus is always late). Because of the increasing humidity, I've started wearing different clothes to walk to the bus and then change at work. This does not require a shower, but I do need to pack clothes. I need to make sure my iPhone and/or mp3 player are charged to entertain myself on the bus.

With either method, the effort required to prepare before leaving is minimized if I just plan ahead and pack the night before. But that cuts into my seating around on the couch surfing the web or blogging time =P

Final Score: bike 4; bus 3

So there you have it. It's pretty close. Given all the facts, which do you think you would you choose more often?

1 comment:

Brad Adams said...

Bicycling is much more comforting than public transport! I love commuting by bike every single day of the year!

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