I wrote this up because people keep asking me questions, though I enjoy answering...note locations and acronyms (SEPTA) are Philadelphia-centric.
Q: Is that a folding bike? It looks complicated.
A: Yes, it's a folding bike! But it's not much more complicated than a regular
bike; just a couple of hinges, folding pedals, and smaller wheels.
Q: How far do you ride?
A: 8.5 miles round trip biking each day. I ride 1 mile to 30th St. Station
in Philly, take a 30 minute Amtrak train to Paoli, then ride about 3 miles
downhill to work. Reverse that to go home, except the downhill is now a
fairly tough uphill.
Q: How long does it take you?
A: In the morning, about 60 minutes from home to sitting in my office chair.
In the evening, it's about 75 minutes. When I drive, it's 45 minutes in
the morning (at 6:30 AM!) and anywhere from 55 to 90 minutes in the evening.
But I get an hour of reading and relaxing each day on the train instead of
'wasted' time driving.
Q: You're allowed to take the bike on the train?
A: Yes. Regular-sized bikes are allowed on SEPTA off-peak only. Folding bikes
are allowed on any SEPTA or Amtrak train, within certain limits as posted
on their web site. Amtrak only allows folding bikes, no full-size bikes.
Q: Why are you doing this? Why not drive?
A: Cycling is fun. I can use the exercise. I enjoy reading on the train.
I like avoiding Friday traffic on the Schuylkill (I-76) and anytime there
is bad traffic. I'm concerned about traffic congestion, the environment,
and scarce oil resources. And I do have a car and drive, but prefer to drive less.
Q: Don't you get sweaty?
A: In the morning it is cooler, and I go slower and most of my ride is downhill,
so no. In the afternoon yes, due to the uphill, but I'm on my way home anyway.
Q: What do you do when it rains?
A: I get wet. Actually, if the forecast is rain then I drive or take the
train+bus instead of biking.
Q: What about when it's dark?
A: I have blinking lights for dawn/dusk, but I will probably not bike
from November thru February when it's fully dark during my commute time.
Q: What if you break down?
A: Worst case I have to walk 1 1/2 miles either to Paoli station
or to work. There is a bike shop right next to the Paoli station as
Q: Isn't biking dangerous? Aren't you afraid of getting hit by cars?
A: I bike safely. Be visible, be predictable, follow traffic laws. I always
wear a helmet. Most of my route has low traffic. I do not believe my
commute is particularly dangerous.
Q: You must save a lot of money since you're not buying any gas!
A: The train actually costs a little more than gas, but that's only part
of the story. Every day that I bike+train, I save 2.2 gallons of gas, or $6.75
at today's prices. Driving costs about 40 cents per mile overall,
so for my 53 mile commute that's about $21. Amtrak costs $10.80 round
trip (with AAA discount), and with bike, maintenance, and other costs I'm
saving a few dollars per day all together. But I'd rather spend my
dollars on bikes and transit rather than on gas and car repairs.
Q: Why don't you take the cheaper SEPTA instead of Amtrak?
A: SEPTA has no express trains in the reverse-commute direction, so it
takes almost 20 minutes longer each way, and is not competitive
with driving time-wise. However, I have been and will continue to use
SEPTA for many of my train commutes when I don't use my bike.
Q: What kind of bike is it? Where did you get the bike? How much?
A: I ride a Downtube IXNS from www.downtube.com; I bought it on ebay for
about $250. Downtube sells several different models direct from $300 to
$500. Downtube is local to Philadelphia (Bensalem). There are quite a
few companies making folding bikes. Dahon is the largest, with maybe
20 different models to choose from. The Brompton (from the UK) is very
popular, but expensive. Trophy Bikes in Philadelphia probably has the
best local selection of folding bikes.