Thursday, November 17, 2011


What is the significance of the the number 96? I'll get to that.

In the meantime, I'll just say that reading blogs and cycling forum descriptions from bicycle commuters fascinates me. It is hard for me to imagine commuting to work by bicycle everyday. It's not the weather or distance that is such a mental challenge. It's having a job that would allow such a thing. It's not the lack of showers, the challenge of finding a place to safely store the bike, or clothing logistics. It's really none of the things most commonly discussed as challenges to the prospective bicycle commuter. But it is none-the-less incredible.

Many cycling advocacy groups, and individuals, promote using the bike for common everyday errands. They say that some extremely high percentage of trips by some extremely high percentage of people are less than 2 miles in length. Really? I have a decent imagination, but that's hard for me to imagine. It might be true, but it is so foreign to my situation, I can't fathom life in that way.

Reading accounts from those who live a car-free lifestyle makes me dizzy.

For me the the thing that makes it such a challenge is that my office is...well...Texas. And in case you haven't looked lately, Texas is a fairly spread out area. My work provides me an opportunity to be quite familiar with most major metro areas. On a regular basis. Not only to I spend more hours than I'd prefer on the job, I also spend more time (if the whole percent of trips thing above is to be believed) than many do traveling. Which brings me back to the number 96.

Just recently my Ford pickup turned four years old. I took the number of miles driven and divided by the number of days I've owned it. The result is the average number of miles I drive my pickup everyday.


That means 96 miles every, single day. Weekends, holidays, days I'm sick, days I work from home, and days I'm on vacation. It includes days I only drive from my house to my "home" office. It includes the days that I only drive from some hotel to one of our offices in another city, and it includes the days I leave my truck parked at an airport when I fly out of town for a few days.

A lot of my miles are on the highway, but many are in town. Let's say I average about 50 mph. That means I spend about 2 hours of every day I live in the cab of a Ford pickup.

Why am I out of shape? Why are my pants too tight? Where does my time go? Why is my diet so pathetic? Why am I always behind on things?

Why do I tend to crave slower-paced rides than I once did? Why am I so grateful for every moment on the bicycle rambling through the north Texas countryside?

Why does car-free living seem like a fairy tale to me?

96. That's why. Every single day. For four years straight.


  1. I am the first to admit that I have it easy, when it comes to living "car-light". I live within 10 miles of 90% of the stuff I do, including work.

    Yet, I still ride the motorcycle a lot, and drive a little. And I don't have 96 daily reasons to do so.

  2. Actually, John Forester (yes, THAT John Forester) made much the same point in his book's chapter about bike commuting. I'm fortunate that my new commute is only 7 miles rather than the 20 it used to be. And that I don't have to constantly travel.

  3. You know what you need? Higher gas taxes. That'll teach you to try and make a living. ;)

  4. That's a pretty impressive amount of driving - milage and time.

  5. Just think what great shape you'd be in if you rode your bike 96 miles every day! Of course, your family wouldn't like it, and you might not have as much time to sleep, or do other stuff.

    At least, when you do get on the bike, you seem to really appreciate it.

  6. Whew! That's exhausting to think about. The more I ride my bike, the more I hate driving. I think I'm even becoming a worse driver from riding so much. I tip my hat to you for having the patience. I think your recreational riding is probably just that much sweeter after all that truck time.

  7. 96 miles a day?.....I can't fathom life in that way.

  8. I think it is time for a major shift in the way I live life. The grass looks greener OUTSIDE the pickup to me.

  9. I've got a friend in a similar situation. You and he make me realize how blessed I am to be able to commute in a way that satisfies my drive to ride my bike.

  10. We all make lifestyle choices. Your choices have allowed you to live on your little patch of prairie. Nothing wrong with that.

    My (new) car-free lifestyle has me living in the city. Getting out to the country means a hectic ride through the 'burbs. There are always trade-offs.

  11. My first 4 years of teaching I commuted 90 total miles a day. When I moved 6 miles away from work I couldn't believe how much it changed my day. Now within a mile we have a grocery, hardware, coffee, church, restaurants, donuts, bank, pool, taverns, etc. But as Dave said, you have wide open expanses out your door and jealously, you have mixed terrain out your door. And the proximity doesn't make me any skinnier. Food and drink is even closer. Complex, isn't it?

  12. I used to have a basement office. Never left my house. I used to dream that one day I would HAVE to commute just to shake things up.
    That much has come true but there are still days I wish I could work in my pj's all day again. Can't have it both ways I guess.

  13. I can relate to your experience somewhat as I live in a rural area and have to drive some distance every other week for hospital rounds. On the off week, I only have a four mile trip to the clinic where I work. During those weeks I am able to ride my bike to work. I tend to be a fair weather commuter, however, as there are no bike paths or lanes and only narrow two lane country roads without shoulders. Riding in rainy weather is just not very safe or pleasant under those conditions. I, too, am finding I enjoy a rambling recreational ride that much more.

  14. Wow, that's a TON of driving.

    As David says, it's about choices.

    My wife and I made a conscious decision to live in town, where things are generally highly accessible, including by bicycle. We thought about moving out in the country, but decided against it, for practical reasons. We've done the big city thing too and can't stand that kind of lifestyle.

    So here we are, in a small(ish) town, with both downtown and middle-of-nowhere readily available.

    The downside? Mainly, we make a lot less money here than we could somewhere else. And for certain things, we have to go to a bigger city, but Indianapolis is only 50 miles away. It's a fair tradeoff for the kind of life we want to live.

    I don't blame you for being tired of all the driving. I've had long commutes at times, and I never liked it, either. Are there any alternatives?