I haven’t owned a car for about 15 months. During that time, Hsinya and I relied heavily on bicycling for basic errands like grocery shopping and sending packages to the post office. We occasionally rented a car, but we’ve recently been working on completely leaving the automobile altogether. When we go to church, we ride a tandem bicycle. When we visit family, we take the train. Concerned family and friends often offer us sympathy and rides because they think we’re working very hard and wasting a lot of time. I surprise them by explaining that going green actually saves me time.
Driving a car can sometimes be slower than human-powered travel. For short distances, cars might be slower than cycling or walking because cars can’t drive as directly. They encounter traffic signals, they require paved roads and parking spaces, and they sometimes have traffic or speed laws that slow them down to the same speed as cyclists or pedestrians. With some practice, you can achieve speeds of 15-25mph on your bicycle if your city provides dedicated bike lanes. I’ve considered taking up running so I can travel on even more direct paths than bicycling.
For longer distances, human-powered travel is comparatively slower, but still worth it. There is a definite correlation between automobile use and obesity. Obesity used to be relatively rare in the pre-industrial world, but it now affects about 1 in 3 people in the US. (1) With obesity comes increased rates of heart attack, cancer, and diabetes. The cure is simple: exercise. Unfortunately, most Americans conclude they can’t find the time to squeeze in the extra minutes for a good work-out. Whether you walk, roller blade, skateboard, or bicycle, you’re getting a good hour-long workout as you journey to your destination. If you skip the gym tonight, you’ll find the time-savings usually make up for the longer commute.
Let’s rethink transportation. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on cars and medical bills, we need to realize that transportation and exercise are not two separate concepts. Instead of commuting to work in high-stress traffic, and then skipping the gym, maybe we could benefit by turning our commute into an exercise regimen. Commuting by human-power is incredibly cost-effective and time-efficient when you think about it. So next time, save some time by walking.
Have you ever considered commuting by public transit or human power? What are some of the biggest obstacles you may encounter?
- Wikipedia shows that almost 75% of the population of the US is overweight or obese, and about 30% is obese. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obesity_in_the_United_States