Cocooned in one’s automobile cruising the streets, taking highways and byways to work may seem like the speedier way to commute. And in certain situations it probably is faster. But, is it truly the better or more effective way to commute?
I would argue that stop-and-go traffic, bumper-to-bumper chaos, and congested streets are hardly relaxing, productive, or even faster. In fact, in an urban setting with the proper infrastructure, bicycling to/from work can be quicker and it is definitely more relaxing. Studies have shown that the effective speed of crossing town travel by bicycle in dense urban settings can be considerably quicker than by automobile (City Cycling, edited by Pucher and Buehler, pages 58-74).
Furthermore, when commuting by car, especially alone, one cannot enjoy the fresh air or communicate with others, unless it is by offensive sign language when someone is peeved. One cannot really ponder the upcoming day’s work schedule or tasks without becoming a distracted driver. Meanwhile, when pedaling to/from work many cyclists are granted Mother Nature’s gifts of solace and reflective retreat from the rat race – an opportunity to cleanse their thoughts and charge/recharge their batteries for the day ahead. For me, the birds singing, chipmunks scampering across the bike trail, butterflies fluttering, or rabbits hopping into the brush, all bring whimsy and delight to the start and conclusion of my work day. For someone riding in a more urbanized setting, it could be the visual treats of fine art, classic architecture, and historic sites that make their ride more enjoyable than driving. Or it may be the vibrant sounds of the city itself that make one’s day. In either case, I would argue bicycle commuting enhances your overall quality of life while commuting by car detracts from it.
Personally, I am a better person and a more productive employee due to being an avid bicycle commuter. Throw in the numerous benefits to one’s physical and mental health, as well as to one’s wallet, and bicycle commuting is easily the better option, except for those with excessively long (perhaps consider moving closer or telecommuting) or ridiculously short (you should be walking) commutes.