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Bike commuting can make transit unbearable

Old 11-12-15, 12:59 PM
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Steely Dan
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Bike commuting can make transit unbearable

before rediscovering cycling, i was a car-free bachelor for about 7 years and got around exclusively on foot and transit. it's just what i did because i didn't have a car.

this morning i took the train to work because my dad is picking me up after work at my office. we're going to a blackhawks game together tonight (let's go hawks!).

i live 5 miles from work. it took me 55 minutes to get there (i was late) because the CTA IS the most inept public transit agency on the planet. it usually takes me ~20-25 minutes to bike those same 5 miles.

my train route includes a line transfer, so i have to wait for two trains. i had 15 minute waits at both platforms at what is rush hour to every one else in the city of chicago except for the CTA, apparently.

5 miles.

55 minutes.

Ree. Dick. You. Luss.


i put up with the CTA's ineptitude on a daily basis for 7 years. now that i'm a bike commuter, i don't know how i did it.

as i was standing on those platforms for what seemed like two eternities, i couldn't get the thought of "WTF? if i rode my bike this morning, i'd already freaking be there" out of my head.



former transit commuters, has bike commuting changed how you now experience using public transit?

Last edited by Steely Dan; 11-12-15 at 01:50 PM.
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Old 11-12-15, 01:04 PM
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I agree with you, and I would even extend that to car commuting.
It is proven that biking is faster than driving at rush hour in many large cities.
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Old 11-12-15, 01:27 PM
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I live in Las Vegas and recall a newspaper article about using city buses. A reporter tried some routes and round-trips could amount to 2-3 hours of your day.

I've often said that I'd rather be getting somewhere on bike in 105F heat than standing around at a bus stop.
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Old 11-12-15, 01:33 PM
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Well . . . not in my case. I ride my bike 6.7 miles from home to the Norwalk Metro (train) Station and take the Los Angeles Green Line for 11 miles (16 minutes). Trains are supposed to be every 15 minutes but are often (usually) 7 to 10 minutes apart. Then it's 1.6 miles to work from the Harbor Fwy Metro Station to work. Cost: .75 each way so 1.50 per day.

One day the trains weren't working (electrical supply issues) so I had to ride the whole way and it took 15 minutes longer. Not a huge time difference but through (rather than over) some pretty scary neighborhoods.
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Old 11-12-15, 01:35 PM
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I'd walk it. It will take longer, but 5 miles is my 10,000 steps on the fitbit. Maybe pick a place about halfway through for a coffee. of course, I don't know your route.
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Old 11-12-15, 01:44 PM
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I used to work on cruise ships and spent a lot of time in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I learned to use their buses and they were great, as far as schedule. Because there was no schedule. If you missed one bus, another would come by in 5 minutes. It was a constant stream.

As one friend said, "The way to get a bus to show up is to light up a cigarette."
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Old 11-12-15, 01:54 PM
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Before I started commuting by bike I considered taking the bus/light rail to get to and from work never quite got around to doing it though. I just checked the on-line trip planner offered by Regional Transit - 1 hour, 21minutes each way. My normal bike commute is almost exactly 15 miles, and usually takes a little under an hour (unless I'm riding slowly with others - heavy rain also slows me down a bit, but never more than 1 hour, 10 minutes). So I'll typically beat mass transit by at least 10 to 20 minutes - assuming I don't miss any connections, or the bus isn't late, or . . . Glad I'm riding.
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Old 11-12-15, 02:47 PM
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Before I started biking to work I took the MAX light rail. When I started out with that I lived on the east side of Portland and worked in the western suburbs. It was about a 25 mile trip and took around an hour and a half. Eventually I gave in and moved to the suburbs. Now it's only about a 10 mile trip and (after a short drive or bike ride to the MAX station) it takes about 40 minutes, depending on how well I time my departure. I still do this once in a while and don't find it intolerable.

The biggest difference biking to work has made (apart from all the biking benefits) is that I don't read nearly as much as I used to. When I used transit every day, I read 40-50 books a year. Now it's more like 4-5. I miss that sometimes, but not as much as I would miss riding my bike.
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Old 11-12-15, 03:05 PM
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It's been several years since I visited Chicago, but back then I'd stay in hotels north of downtown, and rent a car for daily trips to the training academy in Des Plaines. And that was about the only time I used the car for the week to three weeks of training. For travel to Chicago I'd take public transit because it was impossible to find parking. Any time I saved in driving was eaten up looking for a parking place and then walking the mile back to my actual destination.

But I get what you're saying. Here in Fort Worth a typical trip that might be 15-20 minutes by car is an hour to two hours by bus, usually involving multiple transfers. Since I resumed cycling a couple of months ago I usually cycle downtown. Even at my slow pace it takes an hour or less.

But for return trips home sometimes I'll take the bus. There's an express from downtown to my block, so I'll put the bike in the front rack on the bus. It's still not fast because the express has a couple of mandatory layovers that take five minutes each.
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Old 11-12-15, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by bmthom.gis View Post
I'd walk it. It will take longer, but 5 miles is my 10,000 steps on the fitbit. Maybe pick a place about halfway through for a coffee. of course, I don't know your route.
Wouldn't have taken much longer.
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Old 11-12-15, 03:23 PM
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Using the OCTA Bus in Southern Orange County Cali is extremely unreliable. Bus late or never shows up and the 45 minute wait results in missing the next or last connection. A visit to a friend's, which is 9 miles away, is a pleasant ride of one and a half hours and same for return. A friend of mine said he would drop me off one day and the bus ride home took four hours and forty five minutes. Never again!
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Old 11-12-15, 04:22 PM
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I was bicycling home in rush hour traffic yesterday and was easily able to beat traffic home. I’d never again drive a car in that kind of traffic; bicycling is the way to go!
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Old 11-12-15, 04:34 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
It's been several years since I visited Chicago, but back then I'd stay in hotels north of downtown, and rent a car for daily trips to the training academy in Des Plaines. And that was about the only time I used the car for the week to three weeks of training. For travel to Chicago I'd take public transit because it was impossible to find parking. Any time I saved in driving was eaten up looking for a parking place and then walking the mile back to my actual destination.

But I get what you're saying. Here in Fort Worth a typical trip that might be 15-20 minutes by car is an hour to two hours by bus, usually involving multiple transfers. Since I resumed cycling a couple of months ago I usually cycle downtown. Even at my slow pace it takes an hour or less.

But for return trips home sometimes I'll take the bus. There's an express from downtown to my block, so I'll put the bike in the front rack on the bus. It's still not fast because the express has a couple of mandatory layovers that take five minutes each.
Wouldn't staying closer to where you were training have been better? Your commute would be a lot shorter and you're not so far away from everything like you are in the city.
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Old 11-12-15, 04:45 PM
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Originally Posted by no motor? View Post
Wouldn't staying closer to where you were training have been better? Your commute would be a lot shorter and you're not so far away from everything like you are in the city.
Most of us stayed near Des Plaines - around Rosemont, Niles, etc. None of my classmates were interested in the Chicago nightlife or cultural scene. They'd choose whichever hotel was most popular with the agency and offered the best happy hour and hang around the hotel bar all night and weekend. Boring. I'd rent a cheaper place, and use the rest of the per diem on car rental so I could visit the theaters, nightclubs, museums, etc. Some of the live theaters and blues clubs I liked were in the 'burbs, and parking wasn't impossible. I liked having the option of car or bus. If we'd ever been assigned to classes in good weather I might have biked, but our classes were always in winter since it was our agency's slow season.
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Old 11-12-15, 05:12 PM
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Originally Posted by no motor? View Post
and you're not so far away from everything like you are in the city.
perspectives are funny. i would never describe staying in the city as being "far away from everything".

i have the exact opposite view. staying downtown puts one square in the middle of everything that's worth seeing in chicago.
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Old 11-12-15, 05:25 PM
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Bike commuting can make transit unbearable

Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post
before rediscovering cycling, i was a car-free bachelor for about 7 years and got around exclusively on foot and transit. it's just what i did because i didn't have a car....

former transit commuters, has bike commuting changed how you now experience using public transit?
I have previously posted on several threads,

Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
… Humbly, if Bike Forums ever had a Best Commute Award, I would be a frontrunner.

Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
…Not to brag, mind you, but to portray what an ideal situation can provide…
And I have equally pleasant driving and mass transit alternatives. I posted to this Living Car Free thread, "19 things you'll only understand if you don't have a car"

Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
Though Car-Lite, most of my commuting is via bike and Commuter Rail…

My commute is in the reverse direction, with beginning and endpoints of mass transit close to work and home, mitigating many of those problems

+10 for cycle commuting. Even in the worst weather, when auto traffic has been banned, I can get through by bike, and the trains are often reliable too, though likely late by about one half to one hour.

I have a reputation for arriving early. My start time is somewhat flexible. If I have to be in at a certain time I will allow an extra half hour for a flat. If I absolutely have to be there at an exact time (and be presentable), I will likely drive or take the train.
Sometime ago I tried to schematically diagram the comparisons between my three transportation modes:

Overall Satisfaction:
BIKE>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>TRAIN>>>CAR

Intensity of Focus:
BIKE>>>CAR>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>TRAIN

Convenience:
CAR>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>BIKE>>TRAIN

Last edited by Jim from Boston; 11-12-15 at 05:28 PM.
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Old 11-12-15, 05:31 PM
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You could have left your bike at work and doomed yourself to only one train commute instead of two!
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Old 11-12-15, 05:46 PM
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Between the wait for the second bus and all the stops I can easily make my commute in half the time on my bike...
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Old 11-13-15, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
You could have left your bike at work and doomed yourself to only one train commute instead of two!
i don't think you understand, i took the train in to work because my father was picking me up with his car after work right from my office, so i only had one train ride, not two.

if i had rode my bike in and then left it at the office, then i would still have needed to take the train in to work the following morning.

in retrospect, what i should have done was ride my folding bike to work, because then i could have simply folded it up and thrown it in my dad's trunk when he picked me up.
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Old 11-13-15, 10:29 AM
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My city is large enough to have a bus transit system, but small enough that the bus rarely goes where I need it to go around the time I need it to get there.

We currently have 19 different routes that make their loop once per hour. A few years ago a friend and I looked at what it would take to get from our houses to the offices of the clients where we were currently working. Both of us would have had to have caught a bus somewhere on it's loop nearest our house, ride that bus to the hub station, wait for the next bus and ride it from there to a stop nearest our work location. Best case was about 1.5 hours to travel about 6 miles (as the crow flies.) If you missed a bus, you were sitting a full hour until it came around again.

As much as I would like to rely on the bus as a backup form of transportation for those rare days I don't ride, I'm just too impatient.
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Old 11-13-15, 10:52 AM
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I live in a small town (almost a suburb of San Antonio) and commute to another small town. While I doubt I would use mass transit for my commute (10 miles each way; I drive or ride with my wife when the weather's bad), I wish I had the option of taking a train or bus into San Antonio or Austin.
Mass transit at least provides options.
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Old 11-13-15, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by jimmie65 View Post
I live in a small town (almost a suburb of San Antonio) and commute to another small town. While I doubt I would use mass transit for my commute (10 miles each way; I drive or ride with my wife when the weather's bad), I wish I had the option of taking a train or bus into San Antonio or Austin.
Mass transit at least provides options.
True...
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Old 11-13-15, 01:12 PM
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I lived in Reading UK car-free for two years and train-commuted to London, it was nice because I enjoyed all the time I got on the train to just sit and read. Also I got to walk from Paddington across Hyde/Kensington park to Imperial College every day, which was a nice walk, but if I were to do it again I'd get a folder and just have a quicker ride through the park (and just as nice), as well as essentially eliminate the walking time between home and the Reading train station.
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Old 11-13-15, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by jimmie65 View Post
Mass transit at least provides options.
indeed.

and i'm glad that i live in a city that has a fairly decent transit system, but the way that the CTA operates can just be maddening at times. like when you're waiting at a bus stop for 20 agonizing minutes, and then, boom, all of a sudden 3 buses all show up at once. why don't they just space the buses out so that they have one bus every 6 minutes instead of 3 buses every 20 minutes? or when you're trying to get to work at "rush" hour and you have not one, but two 15 minute waits standing around on train platforms like an idiot when trains should ideally be spaced no more than 5 minutes apart at that time of day when millions of people are trying to get places.

it's crap like that that can drive you nuts, especially when you know how much more time-efficient it is to get around town on a bike.

transit isn't bad per se, it's just that bike commuting has sapped a lot of my patience for dealing with it, particularly when things go off the rails (get it?), as they so often do with the CTA.

Last edited by Steely Dan; 11-13-15 at 02:48 PM.
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Old 11-13-15, 03:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post
indeed.

and i'm glad that i live in a city that has a fairly decent transit system, but the way that the CTA operates can just be maddening at times. like when you're waiting at a bus stop for 20 agonizing minutes, and then, boom, all of a sudden 3 buses all show up at once. why don't they just space the buses out so that they have one bus every 6 minutes instead of 3 buses every 20 minutes? or when you're trying to get to work at "rush" hour and you have not one, but two 15 minute waits standing around on train platforms like an idiot when trains should ideally be spaced no more than 5 minutes apart at that time of day when millions of people are trying to get places.

it's crap like that that can drive you nuts, especially when you know how much more time-efficient it is to get around town on a bike.

transit isn't bad per se, it's just that bike commuting has sapped a lot of my patience for dealing with it, particularly when things go off the rails (get it?), as they so often do with the CTA.
I can understand. Back when I went to college in San Antonio (millennia ago), I would sometimes walk from Trinity University to my dad's because I did not want to wait on a bus - over 9 miles and 2 hours. The bus, if it was on time, took over an hour.
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