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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 06-08-14, 09:52 PM   #1
jade408
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Riding a bike really shrinks the city

One thing I have found sinLce starting to bike around town: going to the crowded neighborhoods is a breeze. We've got tons of thriving commercial districts, and parking sucks in all of them. 3 of the best ones are in about a 2 mile radius for me. And downtown is getting busier and it is around 1.5 mikes away. Some of the neighborhoods are connected by quick rides on the bus, but not all of the bus options are frequent.

On a given weekend, it would be impossible to hit more than one in a timely manner, and my typical errands are spread across multiple.

Today I went to get coffee downtown, before a trip to Sears. Then I decided to stop at the farmers market. I also wanted to stop at the LBS near the farmers market to see if they had seat locks. I ended up uncovering a new made in the USA "department store" that I didn't realize was open.

I am trying to save up for a condo, and I got an email about something in my budget, but it was in an area unknown to me. It was just 2 miles from the farmers market, so I decided to bike over and do a ride by to see if I should bookmark more condos in that area. (The block wasn't for me)

Then I realized I wanted to hit another neighborhood to stop at the new artisan liquor store to get some cocktail provisions. After that, my phone buzzed reminding me of a community meeting downtown. Luckily it was just under 2 miles back to downtown. I made it just a few minutes after it started.

After the meeting, I made a quick grocery run, and rode the 1.5 miles home.

There you have it, 4 neighborhoods and no parking drama! These trips would have been pretty difficult via transit. Although the distances were pretty short, some would have required transfers and other annoyances.
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Old 06-09-14, 11:26 AM   #2
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Yes, cycling is unbelievably efficient in compact or dense cities. It perfectly fills the gap between too far to walk, and too short to drive. I understand that these numbers vary by person, and based on things like traffic and parking availability, but find that on average the bike is the clear winner between 1/2 mile and 2 miles. It shrinks that 2 mile trip to a quick ten minute errand, which in places like NY is less time than it can take to park a car.

My favorite thing about going by bike is that it expands the "immediate" neighbor hood significantly bringing greater variety into easy reach. It's no longer about going to a destination to shop, but doing a string of stops along the way.
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Old 06-09-14, 11:32 AM   #3
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Yes, cycling is unbelievably efficient in compact or dense cities....
You don't find cycling to be efficient in less dense areas?
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Old 06-09-14, 11:46 AM   #4
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You don't find cycling to be efficient in less dense areas?
Though I commute daily a much greater distance, I limited the rational to where density is greater to call bicycling the clear winner. As distance get larger time becomes a factor, and that has a value. For example, if errands are scattered in a large area, the time saved driving vs bicycling will more than offset the time lost searching for parking.

I've lived carless now for 5 years since I declared independence from OPEC on July 4 (5 years back). It started as a 30 day challenge, then I kept extending it, but living in the burbs with stuff scattered I don't feel bicycling is a clear winner on efficiency alone. The daily commute takes 20-25 minutes each way vs. 10-15. Daily errands take longer, but I have the benefi of multiple stops vs. destination shopping.

If I still lived downtown, where 90% of my daily needs were within a mile or two, it would be no contest. Where I am now, I wouldn't be using a bike except that I prefer riding most of the time, and commuting puts 100 miles / week into the bank, helping keep me fit for pleasure riding.
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Old 06-09-14, 11:55 AM   #5
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Though I commute daily a much greater distance, I limited the rational to where density is greater to call bicycling the clear winner. As distance get larger time becomes a factor, and that has a value. For example, if errands are scattered in a large area, the time saved driving vs bicycling will more than offset the time lost searching for parking.

I've lived carless now for 5 years since I declared independence from OPEC on July 4 (5 years back). It started as a 30 day challenge, then I kept extending it, but living in the burbs with stuff scattered I don't feel bicycling is a clear winner on efficiency alone. The daily commute takes 20-25 minutes each way vs. 10-15. Daily errands take longer, but I have the benefi of multiple stops vs. destination shopping.

If I still lived downtown, where 90% of my daily needs were within a mile or two, it would be no contest. Where I am now, I wouldn't be using a bike except that I prefer riding most of the time, and commuting puts 100 miles / week into the bank, helping keep me fit for pleasure riding.
Even if your bike commute took 30 minutes, that's still less time than the average car commute in America.

But in a truly dense area like Manhattan, walking is the most popular mode of travel. I think bikes really shine in moderate densities, like city and suburban areas with single dwelling units.
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Old 06-09-14, 12:08 PM   #6
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Even if your bike commute took 30 minutes, that's still less time than the average car commute in America.

But in a truly dense area like Manhattan, walking is the most popular mode of travel. I think bikes really shine in moderate densities, like city and suburban areas with single dwelling units.
You have to compare apples to apples. As I said, my bike commute takes 20-25 minutes vs. 10-15 for the same by car. The national average time doesn't apply because I'm not riding the national average distance.

You're right that in Manhattan walking is a dominant form of transit for neighborhood errands. That's why bicycling is so nice. It brings a larger circle into the neighborhood range, or as you say, it shrinks the city.

I don't know what you call medium density, or what you feel is reasonable riding range for daily errands (in miles or time), and I'm sure that depends on terrain and weather.

Though I live carfree out of choice, I'm not an advocate for any lifestyle and choices. Bicycling fits into the mix, and is another option for people to exploit if/when they choose to, but I'm not pushing it on anyone.
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Old 06-09-14, 12:22 PM   #7
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You have to compare apples to apples. As I said, my bike commute takes 20-25 minutes vs. 10-15 for the same by car. The national average time doesn't apply because I'm not riding the national average distance.

You're right that in Manhattan walking is a dominant form of transit for neighborhood errands. That's why bicycling is so nice. It brings a larger circle into the neighborhood range, or as you say, it shrinks the city.

I don't know what you call medium density, or what you feel is reasonable riding range for daily errands (in miles or time), and I'm sure that depends on terrain and weather.

Though I live carfree out of choice, I'm not an advocate for any lifestyle and choices. Bicycling fits into the mix, and is another option for people to exploit if/when they choose to, but I'm not pushing it on anyone.
Personally, I allow more time for commuting than for running errands. For example, I almost always walk when the commute distance is less than two miles. But I almost always ride my bike for errands, even when the distance is very short.

As for distance, I find five miles to be optimal for a daily bike commute, but I would consider living as far as ten miles from work. I wouldn't want to walk more than a couple miles to work. When it comes to errands, I frequently ride ten miles to a better supermarket before I will walk 1/2 mile to a mediocre market.

So yes, cycling does shrink the city.

BTW, I consider medium density to be where most of the dwelling units are on smallish city lots. High density would be apartments, row houses, etc. low density is where there are farms, forests, or lots of industry.
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Old 06-09-14, 12:24 PM   #8
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So yes, cycling does shrink the city.
No dispute there.
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Old 06-09-14, 12:52 PM   #9
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Even if your bike commute took 30 minutes, that's still less time than the average car commute in America.

But in a truly dense area like Manhattan, walking is the most popular mode of travel. I think bikes really shine in moderate densities, like city and suburban areas with single dwelling units.
I suspect that in NYC, the subway is the most common/popular way to commute, especially to Manhattan job locations. Walking only from the subway stops to home/job or a change to rail or bus mode. I doubt that walking as the sole means of commuting travel is all that common, even in NYC, especially in high rent districts.

Of course walking is a part of every commute, everywhere no matter what the density, for the final segment.
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Old 06-09-14, 01:06 PM   #10
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The New York Times ran an article about how bikes can make it possible to rent a better apartment, opening up lower rent, transit-poor neighborhoods.

No MetroCard Needed: Bikes Change Your Brooklyn Apartment Hunt

I'll say that in Manhattan, bicycle almost always beats any other mode. I can beat the train even going 13 miles from the far north of the island to the Lower East Side.

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Old 06-09-14, 01:38 PM   #11
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I suspect that in NYC, the subway is the most common/popular way to commute, especially to Manhattan job locations. Walking only from the subway stops to home/job or a change to rail or bus mode. I doubt that walking as the sole means of commuting travel is all that common, even in NYC, especially in high rent districts.

Of course walking is a part of every commute, everywhere no matter what the density, for the final segment.
Yeah, good point as far as job commutes. I suppose a lot of errands and leisure activities are within walking distance for New Yorkers, however. That's true even here in Lansing, which is only medium density at best. Most people here could easily walk for some of their errands. Almost all drive, because, unlike NYC, traffic and parking are not much of a hassle. Maybe they would use bikes a little, if that option was even in their radar.
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Old 06-09-14, 03:00 PM   #12
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I'll say that in Manhattan, bicycle almost always beats any other mode. I can beat the train even going 13 miles from the far north of the island to the Lower East Side.
Possibly, as long as the commuter's only concern is time of travel, and shares your lack of concern for weather, neighborhood, traffic/street conditions and bike security issues.
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