Siting in the car is perhaps the least productive time of my day. My wife and I “only” drove a combined 6,000 miles in the past year, but the time behind the wheel served a singular purpose, to get to some other location.
In the past year (since we bought our car), I’ve walked to the market roughly 90% of the time. If I’m already out running errands, I may stop for groceries, but I prefer to walk the mile and a half (each way). There are a couple of stores closer, but this one has the range of organic products that I use for cooking. As an unforeseen bonus, I tend to buy more fresh food and waste less, although this is always a struggle. I am more inclined to buy a few pieces of produce and use them in my meals as opposed to when I used to drive and pick up a large assortment of items, some of which would end up as worm food without ever having made it to my plate. Anyway, the walk gets me outside, takes me through a park, while improving my health by exercising for roughly an hour. Aside from the occasional polluting exhaust pipe, the air is fairly clean and refreshing.
While I own a bike, and Denver has developed an extensive network of bike sharing stations, I do not ride many places. However, biking provides the added bonus of reducing the time it would take if I had walked. Especially for shorter trips, biking has proven faster than driving. In addition, it is cheaper. This is includes taking into account gas, general wear and tear, and parking. For trips downtown, parking a car can cost a dollar per hour or more in Denver (which is admittedly low compared to many cities). The bike is quicker in traffic and easily locked up in front of one’s destination. Justin’s recent post about his experiences riding to work provide further impetus for those curious about why biking may be beneficial.
Public transportation presents a third alternative mode of transport. A bus pass, when used often, becomes economical. Apps for smartphones like NextBus or even Google Maps’s public transportation option enable users to cut down on waiting time, a major issue with catching the subway, bus, light rail, etc. One of the greatest bonuses to riding the bus is being able to read, a favorite past time of mine. Sometimes, when I’m on my way to class, I can read through the articles for discussion or lecture, whereas I would be stuck behind the wheel unable to accomplish anything if I drove. Furthermore, having driven less than 6,000 miles (between my wife and me) in the past year, our insurance is lower than if we were high mileage drivers. In another post of Justin’s he talked about the social aspect of public transportation. This point was reiterated the other day when I ran into an old friend on the bus.
Beyond the economic and environmental benefit, there is the physical exercise of walking and biking, as well as the social component. Driving, especially by oneself, confers none of these advantages. Without traffic, it can be quicker to drive, but instant gratification is a false god.