more bike commute love, in a congested network

This Wednesday, I’m feeling a bit wonky. Don’t worry, I’ve still shared a (relatively) Wordless Wednesday post. So it’s a two-fer! As it is still National Bike Month, I figured I’d talk a bit more about biking love. Last week I wrote about my experience biking to work at home. I’m still a bit in awe of how much I cycle around town given that I work in the room next door. Have bike will travel, I guess. Others have noted that I didn’t talk quite so much about the benefits of biking.

There’s has been a biking infographic from Fitness for Weight Loss that has been making it’s rounds on the various interwebs. It seems pretty informative, and sources are listed at the end of the graphic. Lots of benefits are depicted there, but my favorite personal benefit is this one:

Bike to Work Savings - Stephanie Averkamp

Starting a business isn’t easy or cheap. Biking makes both work for me rather than against me. It’s also a great form of multi-tasking: making deliveries, commuting, and exercising all while saving money.

Don’t get me wrong, the broader benefits are appealing. I like knowing that I’m doing my part to reduce impacts on climate change by not driving as frequently. Here comes the wonky bit: even more so, I like knowing that I’m not contributing to transit crowding.

Think about this. While the average American commuter travels about 25 miles, a large portion–perhaps as much as 1/2–commute less than 5 miles. Yet biking trips are a small portion of commute trips in most cities, less than 5%. Most people are driving or taking transit. That means roadway congestion and transit crowding, now in some cities, eventually in others. But we know that travel via these modes takes up more space than biking or walking. And space is at a premium in many of the larger, more mature cities.

Five miles is a relatively short trip, particularly when compared with the 50-mile megacommutes that are growing in some regions. It is also a bikeable distance, provided there are safe roadway conditions. But even in cities like New York, or perhaps especially so, people are still taking transit. This seems like the greenest thing to do, right? Not necessarily.

When transit systems are at or nearing their capacity (read: very crowded), every person counts. For these systems to make room for those megacommuters who might decide not to drive, those in the congested core who can bike, should. If enough people bike rather than transit, it can help to alleviate transit crowding today and potentially postpone what wonks call crush loads (read: packed in line sardines).

So, again, though biking works for me as a personal decision, I definitely feel a little better knowing that I’m doing my part to give someone else a bit more breathing room. This is a benefit transpo geeks strive to quantify, and then to explain to the traveling public. I do hope this post gets closer to an explanation that resonates. Either way, we’re working on it.


  1. You mentioned benefits that I never thought of. Hopefully that will encourage more people to bike.

    1. It would be great if more people bike, but honestly, I think it starts when people see it as an option. It just seems that people pick driving by default or because biking or transit seems so daunting…

  2. Preach it sister! Bikes for all!

    1. Maybe not for all, but definitely for way more people 🙂

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