Work Commute: Bike vs Bus
It’s been almost 4 months since my car broke down and we chose to live without it. We finally fixed it, so we could sell it, but we are keeping it for now to use for emergencies only. The routine of living without a car is already established, so it is a lot easier to continue it even with the temptation of a working car nearby. Our primary modes of getting to work without a car are riding our bikes or taking public transportation (Lynx bus). We occasionally carpool with a co-worker, but we try to keep that to a minimum and be as self reliant as possible. So I thought I would compare the two buses looking at various factors: time, flexibility, cost, multitasking, exercise, weather, cargo, route, and effort. Is there an important factor I left out that I should consider?
This is an update to an article from my personal blog back in July, and I find that my perspective has changed as I’ve settled into a routine and with the introduction of the UCF Bike Bus a month ago. In my original post, there was no clear winner with each method having their share of advantages and disadvantages. It was almost a draw most days, but other circumstances usually made one more attractive on any given day. If I lived closer to work, and I was not training for a marathon, the bike bus would win every time.
Time (+.5 bike)
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. The bike bus edges out the Lynx bus a little bit because it’s predictable. As long as I leave on time, I know exactly when I’ll arrive at work. Now that we have others depending on us, it’s easier to keep to a schedule. The Lynx bus is constantly delayed, especially in the afternoons, so I have to plan ahead and build in plenty of buffer time if I have to be at work or home by a certain time for a meeting or event but it’s a small price to pay for the freedom of living without a car (more on that in a later post)
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 Lynx bus and I miss it, even by a few minutes, I automatically add 30 minutes to my commute.
Cost (+1 bike)
It costs $2 per trip, one way, to ride the Lynx bus or $50 a month if I buy a bus pass. The bike bus is free, although there is the occasional maintenance cost like replacing tubes, etc. The pass is only cost-effective because we are not biking as often as we’d like due to the distance and training for the other sports. The pass is also more convenient than having exact change every time I need to take the bus.
Multitasking (+1 bus)
I can do other things while I ride the Lynx 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. But the best part is enjoying the sunrise on my way to work.
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 30 miles roundtrip or 2-2.5 hours of exercise a day. Biking is a bit more strenuous than walking, even though 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 (+1 bike)
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 grocery panniers on my bike where I keep all this stuff , 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 could 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 time 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)
The Lynx 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. There isn’t much to look at along the way, other than road construction and other passengers. The bike bus route is along the Cady Way trail for the first half, then 6 miles on University Blvd into the sunrise. I love taking in the surroundings, enjoying the morning breeze, and getting to know my fellow bike bus passengers. Observing traffic dynamics, as well as their reaction to our presence on the road, is rather fascinating. I used to feel anxious riding my bike down University Blvd, but I’ve embraced it and now find it calming. I’m even considering making the ride alone sometime, which I would have never considered a few weeks ago. I also experience more stress riding the Lynx bus because of it’s unpredictability, and I have to deal with the noise and chatter on the bus.
Effort (+1 bus)
This is the big one and probably the main reason I choose to take the Lynx bus over the bike bus more often. 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 time seating around on the couch surfing the web or blogging =P
Final Score: bike 5.5; bus 3
So there you have it. Now it’s your turn! Given all the facts, which do you think you would choose more often? Which factor do you think would influence your decision the most? Are there additional factors that would influence your decision?