Monday, September 5, 2011

When Bikes Beat Cars

When I lived in Berkeley, it was faster to bike almost anywhere within a 4 mile radius than it was to drive and find parking.  This was due to very progressive transportation policies and road designs that put bikes first and cars second.  But what about in Arkansas, a non-progressive place where cars and trucks rule?

I used to live in the Riverdale area and worked in North Little Rock off Northshore Dr.  I commuted by bike sometimes when the weather was nice and was pleasantly surprised to find that it took me roughly the same amount of time to bike as it did to drive.  How is that possible you might ask?  Well, thanks to the Big Dam Bridge, my bike commute was 5-6 miles, while my driving commute was 9, on a road with lots of traffic lights or 14 miles taking the interstate.  Now, obviously I can't bike 60 or 45 mph or even half of that, but think about what your average speed really is during rush hour.  If I averaged 12 mph by bike, I'd get there in the same amount of time as if I averaged 20 mph on Cantrell which has lots of traffic, numerous lights, and often a 5 minute wait to get on the highway.

This got me wondering if there were other commutes in Arkansas where bikes beat cars as opposed to being 20 minutes slower, but healthier and lots more fun.

If you have a bike commute that is faster than your car commute let me know and I'll put it up here!

Here is the most drastic example I've found:

 It involves commutes from the Heights/Cammack Village area to Northshore.  8 miles by car vs. 3 miles by bike.  Admittedly, anyone doing that by bike would have a nasty hill to climb coming home.  However, at 12 mph the bike ride would take 15 minutes vs. 20 minutes by car with no traffic delays!

View Little Rock Commutes in a larger map

Here is my old commute, 9 miles by car vs. 5.5 by bike:

View Riverdale Commute in a larger map

I guess another way bikes beat cars is illustrated by my new commute in Fayetteville.  Driving and biking from my apartment to many places on campus takes about the same amount of time once you factor in the parking process.  Since parking in crowded parts of Fayetteville generally costs money, bikes beat cars by being cheaper.  No money on gas, no money on parking.

This was also the case in Seattle, when I had a 4-mile bike commute along the Burke-Gilman Trail.  I suspect this type of thing is common is large cities with major traffic problems and parking scarcity.  In this case, the biking route was longer than the driving route, but still took less time door-to-door (think driving, finding parking, walking) and was much cheaper to the tune of hundreds of dollars a quarter.

I also found a shorter biking route through Union Bay Natural Area that helps mix up the commute and eliminates some major intersections where long waits are common.  Due to the gravel, you probably won't go as fast, but it cuts off half a mile.  If you commute to UW from the northeast (Windermere, Laurelhurst, Sand Point) check out the maps below and let me know if you have a better route!  Only 6 steps to carry your bike up if you follow the exact route shown in green below (zero if you loop around under the bridge near campus)!

View Seattle Commute in a larger map

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