Thoughts on my Commuting Habits

After reading Chad Skelton’s story in the Vancouver Sun today about transit-use by neighborhood in Vancouver, I have been thinking about my own commuting habits.

(aside: I can’t wait to see the 2011 numbers on this and see how they compare).

Since I moved from the Cambie Village to where I currently live, near Memorial Park, my commuting has changed drastically. I used to drive once every few weeks – I could walk to shops, work, etc. But since moving out to south-east van, I’ve been driving WAY more: in order to  drop Liam at school, get to work at a reasonable time, then get back to Liam’s school in order to pick him up, I had to drive. Transit is simply too slow, too unreliable. At it’s best, when I perfectly make all connections, my transit commute is 40 minutes. Driving that same distance is 30-odd minutes. Another change in our current location is that we’re just as likely to go to Metrotown or Richmond to do some shopping as we are to go downtown or Oakridge. For convenience (and often, immediate out-of-pocket costs, given 2 adult + 1 child tickets, each way) we generally drive to all those – rather than walking or hopping on the bus/skytrain downtown.

But when I don’t have to pick Liam up from school, I would take the bus to/from work: the 41/43 to Oakridge, then the Canada Line to Yaletown, then walk back to Cambie & Smithe, where my office is. There’s a variety of other routes I’ve tried too (note – all of these times are total, including my walking time):

  • Knight 22 Bus, to Pender/Cambie (about 40 minutes when nothing goes wrong. But the Knight 22 is terribly unreliable).
  • 41/43 EAST to skytrain, then skytrain to Stadium/Chinatown, then walk to my office (about 45 minutes – but it just feels wrong to go this route.)
  • 41/43 to Oakridge, 15 Cambie bus to my door (about 40 minutes – if the busses connect perfectly, which never happens. And now the Cambie bus no longer goes over the Cambie bridge)
  • 41/43 to Oakridge, Canada line to Broadway, 17 bus to my door (about 60 minutes due to connections)

But while I have lots of options, none of them are particularly speedy. And none as convenient, even accounting for bad rush-hour traffic, as driving.

I used to ride occasionally, but with an active family, I’d often end up having to leave my bike at work overnight, because I’d get picked up and we’d then all go somewhere else. Our Yaris couldn’t fit my bike in it.

Then, this summer, with the pending arrival of Kellan, we bought a Toyota Highlander SUV. And on this SUV, we put a bike rack. And suddenly amazingly, I’m riding way more. And I’ve figured out why I didn’t ride so much before. Generally, I ride to work, but at least twice a week, I get picked up and we go do something. Which previously meant that I wouldn’t be riding in the next morning, because my bike would be at work still. And best of all, biking is by far the quickest way for me to get to work: I’m averaging 23 minutes on my ride to work (downhill) and 33 minutes home (uphill). Which is not only quick, but has an immediate impact on my health too – 6 weeks into doing this, I’m 12 pounds lighter to boot. Somewhat ironically, buying an SUV has been good for my health, because I’m using it MUCH less than I used to use my little car.

I still don’t particularly like my commuting options. I’m hoping to become an all-weather cyclist, but I don’t have a great history of it, so we’ll see what happens in the winter.

8 Replies to “Thoughts on my Commuting Habits”

  1. The first few miserable days of the rainy season are the most important when it comes to being a year-round cyclist in Vancouver. Get yourself a reasonable, but lightweight water-resistant riding jacket and tights, and a pair of rain booties. Then, don’t let yourself make excuses those first few wet days. If you can get a week of wet riding in, then the rest will just come naturally. Until the snow and ice come, of course. With 14 years of year-round bike commuting in Vancouver now, the wet riding is *almost* as relaxing as the sunny days.

    1. I have a jacket & tights. Need the booties. There’s also nowhere to shower once I get to work, which I think might be an issue. I’m looking about at nearby gyms to see if I can “rent” the showers to get warm/clean/dry.

      1. The shower is overrated. None of the 3 of us at work that bike commute shower when we arrive. We have a change room, though, and we all completely change into work clothes and hang the riding gear to dry out. No one smells and the change room is surprisingly odour-free!

        1. huh. that’s good to know. I sweat an awful, terrible lot when I bike, which is why I’ve been wanting a shower. But maybe letting myself “cool off” a few minutes, then changing, which is what I’ve been doing all summer, is enough. I don’t have anywhere that isn’t my office to hang out clothes though :/

  2. Oh, and huzzah! Congrats! Riding to work is a great way to get yourself ready to face the day. As long as the motorists don’t turn you off people entirely. 🙂

  3. That’s pretty incredible that cycling is faster than either transit or driving.

    I’m jealous. My commute is either 80 minutes of walking & transit or else 10 steps across the hall to the home office.

    1. Hah. Driving CAN be faster – it just isn’t most days in rush hour. And on days that I perfectly connect on transit it’s quite a bit faster – those are just few and far between – certainly nothing I could count on.

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