Posts Tagged 'commuting'

Slowly getting better

OK, back for another overdue check-in on my driving reduction efforts.  When we last left off in July, I was sitting somewhere around 496 miles for the month, one heavy with trips to the airport and cross-town engagements, not great, but not bad either, given the circumstances.  The next two months, however, have been much better.

From July 13 – August 12, I managed to put on a mere 222 miles, and that’s with an incredible run of 100+ degree days that started at the end of July and ran for 18 straight days.  I’m really proud of myself for this accomplishment, but honestly, other than one or two particularly brutally hot days, it was still loads of fun to be out riding to and from work every day.  I almost never missed the car or it’s air conditioning for my commutes.

From August 13 – September 12, I’ve managed to keep the mileage on the car down to 311 miles for the month, and over 80 of those miles were put on after what was left of Hermine washed out a week’s worth of commuting (well, Hermine and one lazy Friday).  It’s a hair over my original goal of 250-275 miles per month, but still not too bad, if you ask me.  I still have a lot of room to improve in the area of quick trips to the grocery store as well, I plan on getting old blue prepped this afternoon and slapping a milk crate on the rack for just this purpose.  I can’t wait to give her a spin.

Someone said something about driving less?

OK, so it’s been a while since I’ve checked in here on the driving reduction front, and as is usual when you stop cataloging things you want to keep in check, it looks as if I’ve done a pretty losy job of actually keeping things in check. 

My numbers since Feb 12, the last check in date:

Feb. 13 – Mar. 12: 475 miles driven.  Not as good as the previous month, when I clocked just 426, but still a 14% reduction from my average the previous year.

Mar. 13 – Apr. 12: A good month, I drove just 397 miles in this month, which while above my initial hoped for target of 361 miles, was still well ahead of my adjusted target of 428, based on the previous month’s mileage.  It would have seemed as if I were back on track, had the next month not happened…

Apr. 13 – May 12:  In one month, I put 609 miles on the car. Yipes!  At first, I was a little confused as to how in the hell I’d done that, especially since I was out of town for a week riding in the Tour du Rouge.  But then I remembered that as my final tune-up for the Tour, I rode in the Muenster Germanfest Bike Rally.  And since Muenster is about 80 miles away, that added quite a bit of mileage to the tally.  Still, even without that trip, I was sitting at about 440 miles for the month, and I was gone and unable to drive for a quarter of the time, about 100 miles over my original target, and 80 miles over my revised target.  Hopefully June would be better.

May. 13 – June 12: As hoped, things did improve somewhat this month, with a 446 mile total for the month.  While not great from the standpoint of my original plans, it was still a 19% reduction from my average mileage from last year, and a 10% reduction from my average for the previous five months since I first laid out my goal of driving less.

June 13 – July 12: I’m currently sitting at approximately 459 miles (I say approximately because I forgot to look this morning, but I am right aroud this area, I’ll update when I get home).  At first blush (all blushes, really) this is a bit of a step backwards from the previous month.  However, there were extenuating circumstances.  This month I had to make three trips to DFW to pick up or drop off people at the airport, and at 60 miles a pop, that adds up pretty quickly.  Add to that an additional 45 miles for a social engagement that I wasn’t allowed to miss, and we’re sitting at just 234 miles which is well below even my original projected target for the month.  Now, I do have to say that I hate to bring up these extenuating circumstances, because in one sense, they are a bit of an excuse and some portin of them should be factored into my expected mileage, but the fact of life is that living in Dallas/Fort Worth, sometimes you can’t get away from tossing 60+ miles onto the tally in one afternoon, and often those times are impossible to plan for (e.g. two of those airport trips were last minute affairs that were wholly unexpected).

So, whay do I expect for the coming month?  It’s hard to say.  I’m getting much more consistent at riding my bike to and from work, even when I have smaller errands to run.  And larger shopping trips are more consolidated into dense loops.  On the down side, I know I’ll have at least one trip to the airport coming up in the month, and this one cannot be shifted to public transport, but it’s just one trip and can probably be worked into the budget.

Still, things can be made better.  More regular trips to the warehouse stores could be done by bike, which would cut down on the number of larger trips to only those times when I would buy items too large to carry safely on my bike.  And if I get off my behind and get old Blue prepped and ready for travel, I can add more quick trips to the grocery store to the bike total.  I think a big help might be in keeping a daily driving journal so I can better see where all of these miles are going and come up with more specific was to reduce them.  I’ll try to start one today by leaving a pad in the car to record each trip I take, we’ll see how that works out in the coming month.

Stupid Google

So, I’d been riding the same commute route for a little over two years now (with small variations for hitting different grocery stores or running other errands). I thought it was pretty much the best route available, hitting a sweet-spot for low traffic density with little riding out of the way to avoid the more hairy stretches of traffic. In fact, I was so sure that this was the ideal route between my home and work that when Google Maps first added their biking directions option, I asked it to map out a route for my commute and scoffed at its silly reply. “You want me to go where? Stupid Google.”

Then three days ago I set out on my morning commute and found, a bit to my dismay, that the city of Plano was resurfacing one of the stretches of road that I commute on, and had closed the road to through traffic (I was only a bit dismayed because that stretch really does need resurfacing). So I wiggled about and took a detour which pulled me over a mile out of my way that morning, and a similar one that evening for the ride home. And the next day I took a shorter detour which plunked me smack in the middle of some more construction on a far busier street with far angrier drivers. “I guess I’ll have to take the long detour after all,” I sighed to myself as I was about to resign myself to my fate (goodness knows I love riding my bike, but after work, I just want to get home and see my girl and my dogs and my couch; and frankly, the hot, humid Texas summer weather isn’t the happiest stuff to ride in either). But then I remembered that route that Google suggested to me all those months ago.  Sure, I laughed at it, but maybe it would be better than taking the long way home, even if it were busier with traffic. I’d try it that evening on the way home and evaluate it.

Eventually, it was time to head home, so I strapped on my bag and my helmet and I hit the mean streets of Plano, ready for the worst, and preparing myself to leave a little earlier in the morning tomorrow after this route failed tonight. Only… it didn’t.

It turns out that those goons at Google know what they’re talking about. This new route not only cuts a bit of distance off of my regular commute route (only about a quarter of a mile), but it cuts out about three quarters of a mile of the highest traffic density road on my ride and instead routes me through an industrial park where, to date, I’ve seen a total of two cars on the road in three days. Imagine that. On the downside, I do need to cross two sets of rough railroad tracks and … well, that’s it. Sort of.

On the route as suggested by Google, for my morning commute there are two problems:

  1. There is one left turn required onto a very busy stretch of road. You’re only on that stretch for about a tenth of a mile, so the pucker factor isn’t too bad, but you can wait a long time for traffic to clear enough to turn out.
  2. Just after that left turn is a right turn onto another busy street (the one mentioned above that had much of its length cut out by this new route. Here, the problem isn’t the turn, as it was with the previous left, this one is protected by a light. The problem is that about a quarter of a mile down the road, I need to make another left turn, and I need to cut across three lanes of traffic to set it up. Now, given the speed limit of the road (40 MPH, just coming out of a 45 MPH zone), the speed of your average cyclist, the distance from the light at the intersection, and the length of that light, it just so works out that, when it comes time to cut across those three lanes, if the cyclist had gone straight through that intersection, there will almost always be a gap between waves of cars that makes it easy to cross over. However, if the cyclist is now making a right turn at that intersection onto that stretch of road, he is now a half-cycle off with respect to the traffic lights, and the gap no longer exists to safely and easily cut across those lanes to turn left at the next light.

Fortunately, I believe I found a solution to both problems with one fell swoop. It appears, from a look at the Google Maps satellite photos, that I can easily cut through the parking lot of one of the businesses along the new route, and enter that last busy stretch of road just ahead of the light. Doing so wipes out the need for that busy left turn, and it will have me back in sync with the traffic pattern that lets me cut across the road and set up my left turn. I’ll have to try it out tomorrow to be sure it works, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t.

In the meantime I can take comfort in the fact that I’m still smarter than the Google gang about one thing; parking lots.

Stupid Google.

Well, that’s much better!

So last month I hadn’t made any progress towards my goal of cutting down on the number of miles I put on my car. My average for the month was about exactly what it had been the year before, so I put a little extra burden on myself this past month to exceed my original goal of cutting out 10% per month. So how did I do? Quite well actually. With a caveat.

First of all, my mileage. From Jan. 13 – Feb. 12 I put on just 426 miles. A drop of 136 miles from the previous month, for a whopping 24% decrease last month, and a 22.5% decrease from my average of 550 miles/month. Awesome.

However, there’s a bit of the bad to go with the good in there. A part of the reason I was able to cut my miles so severly is that I was out of town on business four four days. Not being able to drive your car sure makes it a lot easier to not drive your car. Of course, on the flip side, the next week we had not just bad weather, but horrible weather. We were hit with 11″ of snow here in the D/FW area (about 8-9″ at the house) and for days the roads were either snowy/slushy, or covered with ice as the snow slowly melted during the day and refroze at night. I simple do not have a bike that is set up to ride safely in those conditions, so I left it at home and drove in to work for five straight workdays. That right there is about 75 miles that were unexpectedly added back into my total.

Finally, I started out the current month with a bit more driving than I would have liked, thanks mainly to poor shopping list planning and a sick girlfriend who needed me to run out for supplies (doesn’t she know she’s supposed to schedule her illnesses?), as well as an unnecessary driving commute that I did, simply because I didn’t prepare the night before and was too tired to get motivated in the morning. One of those conditions is survivable, two are not.

Anyway… with the weather appearing to start climbing out of the depths of witer suckitude and into something a bit less bone-chilling, I ought to be able to get a lot more riding in in the coming weeks. I just need to make sure my rain gear is ready to go.

Decline and fail

So, last month I posted about trying to cut back on the amount of driving I do starting with my average over the previous 10 months, and shaving about 10 percent off of that per month until I get down to roughly 50% of what I’d been averaging the year before.

It’s a noble plan, to be sure, but kind of a useless one if I don’t actually put it into effect. So, have I?

Sadly, the answer is, “not so much”. In the month from Dec 13, 2009 to Jan 12, 2010, I put 562 miles on my car, a slight increase over my monthly average (sadly I wasn’t keeping records until February 2009, so I don’t know how it compares to the same time period last year.

Now I’ve got a few reasons why I did so poorly in my first month. Some are just excuses, but there are a couple of valid ones in there as well. Two trips to the airport and back added 124 miles to the tally; that’s 22% of my total. And recovery from an illness lead to a full week of driving, rather than riding into work, adding another 70 miles (12.5%) to the total. Each of those items added more to my tally than I was hoping to cut off.

Of course, while the illness was unexpected, the trips to the airport weren’t, and I really could have planned around them a bit better. I’ll just toss that one into the lessons learned category.

Anyway, sitting where I am now, I’m adjusting my goals that will take me into February. Instead of shaving 10% off of my total this month, I’m looking to shave off 15, to get me closer to being back on track to my year-long goal. That means I’m looking to put on no more than 468 miles this month. Can I do it? Well, 10 days into the month, I’ve got just 130 miles on the car, and that includes three days of driving commutes and two side trips that really could have been avoided (or at least shortened). So I’m well ahead of my nominal pace,  and even ahead of my original goal of 440 miles in the month. In other words, so far, so good.

The great decline

Since 11 Feb 09, I’ve put 5620 miles on my car.  On average, that’s about 18 mile per day, 130 miles per week, 550 miles per month, and 6725 per year.

I’d like to think that that’s not too bad, especially since I’m averaging about 16,000 miles/year on that car since I purchased it.  And in fact, I do seem to be doing a little bit better than the average American: According to Brighter Planet, my auto-based carbon footprint is 12% below the national average.  Now I’m not a particularly “green”guy, so I don’t really know how much that means, but I’m pretty sure it means I’m not making like the Road Warrior and living in my car as it rolls down the highway.  However, I still think I can do better.

As I said above, I’m not a particularly green kind of guy, so I’m not trying to save the planet or anything, but I am a bicycle guy, and I am always looking for ways to get more riding in.  Plus, my belly is learning new and effective strategies in my ongoing battle with banishing it from my body, so more exercise is always a good thing (at the very least I can eat more pie without getting too much fatter).  And so I’ve decided to try to ride more and drive less in the upcoming year.  So I’m setting a goal to reduce my monthly driving mileage by 50% by the end of the year.

Now, as with anything,there are always some caveats.  I don’t plan on reducing my driving that much straight-away.  For one thing, it’s December, and it’s starting to get friggin’ cold out there.  I do ride in the winter, but I don’t have as much winter gear  as I would like to ride all the time in the winter (plus none of my bikes are set up for riding in any snow or ice, so on the rare occasions that happens here in the Metroplex, I’ll be hopping back in the car), plus I’m not really set up yet for larger trips to the store — all I have are my messenger bag and a rack that’s calling out for a basket.  Throughout the year, I’ll be working on getting more utility gear so more and more of my shopping trips (like those to Costco) can be done by bike as well.

And so, my plan is to try to shave another 10% per month off of my total mileage, so that by the end of May I’m down to about 250-275 miles per month by car.  I suppose that I should also add the caveat that this doesn’t include miles driven for work purposes (not commuting, but things like business trips).  I’ve recently developed a full-blown fear of flying (which I would love to get over, but I don’t see that happening any time soon), so all of my travel for work is going to involve a rental car or a train.  And since one round-trip to Iowa would eat up seven months of my driving allowance, I simply can’t count those miles towards my total.

Anyway, I’ll be checking in here regularly, updating y’all on my progress towards my goals and maybe even sharing spiffy graphs or pics of poorly assembled bike trailers that nearly cause me to tumble over into traffic.