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Curing your Clown-Like Car Habit

A lineup of Clowns waiting to drive their kids a few blocks home from school, on a beautiful Hawaiian afternoon this January.

A lineup of Clowns waiting to drive their kids a few blocks home from school, on a beautiful Hawaiian afternoon during my vacation (January 2013).

One of the weirdest things about this country is the way people use their cars.

I mean, it takes some serious effort to find a spot in our Three Million Square Mile land area, where you will not see endless lines of seated humans trundling meaninglessly back and forth in these giant and stupendously inefficient machines. Whether you’re on a rocky rural road in the desert, in a deep blizzard high atop the Continental Divide, walking up to the elementary school on a Friday afternoon to retrieve your son, or sitting with your feet in the sand on the Windward shores of Oahu, those fuckin’ cars are right there with you – roaring, stinking, crashing, and impoverishing their owners.

All this would be excusable if all these cars were providing an essential service. If every car trip delivered great rewards to its driver, and by extension to society as a whole, I’d gladly toss down this keyboard and stand up so I could cheer on the heroic drivers as they passed by. Just as I solemnly accept that digging up a 27 kilometre tunnel of solid rock beneath Switzerland to build the Large Hadron Collider was a worthwhile wound to inflict on our planet because of the expected advancements to science, I could accept that paving over most of our cities to accommodate cars is Good.

But unfortunately, that’s not the case. After years of careful study, observations, and interviews with real car drivers, I have come to the conclusion that about 90% of the car use that occurs in the United States is Pure Bullshit. But don’t get out your boxing gloves and start knocking out motorists just yet, because the ridiculousness is baked right into our culture. Our people are victims rather than perpetrators, even if their suffering is rather comical and clown-like.

Luckily, today I’ll present a cure for the problem.

My home town of Longmont, Colorado represents the ultimate laboratory for studying Car Clown disease, as it is sufficiently small and bike-friendly that car trips within town are completely unnecessary. Since groceries and kids are easily handled by a bike trailer, the only reason to drive would be physical impairment, transporting items too large for a trailer, or driving to another city.

Yet these intra-city trips are commonplace. When I see a car ease into a parking spot, I always run to assist the driver with getting out into their wheelchair, but I am stunned to find that they usually have working legs after all! People drive to the school to pick up and drop off kids. To the grocery store. To the restaurants. To the gym. To each other’s houses. Back and forth on Main Street to show off. Every road sees plenty of cars and personal trucks, some of them in dangerous numbers. And inside, every vehicle is equipped with a La-Z-boy recliner, upon which a tragic clown sits, pushing the soft-touch pedals, turning the power-assisted wheel, and talking on some sort of Clownophone.

The clowns have to wait in line when the traffic light turns red. They have to bumble though the parking lots and wait for each other to back out of parking spaces, because their machines are so bulky that two cannot pass each other in a space less than 20 feet wide. They line up at special events and fight for places to park on the streets. Then they line up at the gas station and the car wash and the oil change shop. And the machines make them fatter and poorer every time they use them.

And we haven’t even addressed the most clown-like invention of them all: the drive-through (or ‘drive-thru’ as it they spell it here, which is suitable because “thru” is not even a word, just as drive-through services should not exist). The clowns actually sit for several minutes in a self-imposed traffic jam, engines idling, just so somebody can hand them some shit through the window of their car!

Mustachians like you and I view an idling engine like a bleeding wound or an overflowing toilet. It’s something to be alarmed at, and to correct immediately. But Car Clowns actually idle deliberately, sometimes to get something as ridiculous as a cup of expensive coffee in a disposable paper cup. When I see these lines of Drive-Thru Clowns, I find the urge to get off my bike and walk down the lineup systematically PUNCHING EACH DRIVER IN THE FACE through their open window to be almost overwhelming.

It sounds like a terrible fate when I describe it like that, but yet for almost everyone in the country, this is reality. Most Car Clowns will acknowledge that their lives are pretty inconvenient, but then claim that a car is necessary to prevent the even greater inconveniences of public transit, walking, or not going anywhere at all.

Well, here’s the good news: Car Clown Disease is not an unavoidable thing. It’s simply the product of bad habits. If you can reprogram the bad habits you’ve built around cars, you can slide into the cool camp of Conscious Car Users instead. It’s a land where traffic is sparse, the view out your window is breathtaking, and cost is negligible.

To cure the disease, you just need to change the way you feel about driving. Right now, you probably feel that it’s just something you do because it’s necessary. Maybe you even find it pleasant at times (hell, I sure do). You have the cozy seats, the climate control, the stereo, lights, knobs and buttons, and all that power. You can go anywhere with that thing.

But there’s more to it than that. When you use a 3500-pound car to transport your 150-pound self around, 96 percent of the weight of that clump of matter is the car. You’re moving 25 times more junk around than you need to, and thus using 25 times more energy to do it.

Imagine that you’re hungry for lunch, so you go to a restaurant. But you don’t just order yourself a blackened salmon salad for $15.00. You order twenty five salads for $375.00! Then, you eat one of them, and leave the other 24 blackened salmon salads, $360.00 worth of food, to get collected by the waiter and slopped unceremoniously into a big black garbage bag. All that fine wild-caught Alaskan Salmon, lovingly seasoned and grilled. All the fine crumbles of feta cheese, the mango salsa, diced green onion, shaved peppers, rich zingy dressing, and everything else the chef worked on for hours – plopped into the slimy garbage bag. This is exactly what you are doing, every time you drive!

And you’re not just wasting your own money, of course. You are wasting the gasoline that the rest of the world works so hard to produce, puncturing seabeds and spilling stadium-loads of oil into pristine wilderness areas as a necessary byproduct. Destroying coral reefs and flooding coastlines with your carbon emissions. Clogging roads and creating demand for roadway expansion, indirectly raising your own taxes. It’s a whole lot of badness we’re doing, every time we drive. It’s not just a matter of “Hey, it’ll only cost me ten bucks for the gas”. It’s a matter of choosing to be an asshole. I fully admit that I drive plenty of miles in cars too, and I too am being an asshole every time I do it. Other people think you’re being an asshole when you drive too, and you should be just a little bit embarrassed every time you are seen driving. I sure am.

The goal here is not to create negative stress in your life. Just acknowledge that whenever you turn the key, you need to say, “Here we go. I’m being an asshole again”. It’s a subtle change, but a powerful one once you embrace it. And of course, your assholism scales with the size and weight of the vehicle. If you’re considering driving a pickup truck or large SUV for personal transport, the asshole factor should be so overwhelming that you feel like running inside to cower in a closet every time you even look out at your driveway. Feel the pain. Embrace it. Over time, work to reduce it.

On top of that, every time you drive on a local trip that could be handled by bike, you are telling both the world and yourself, “I am already so physically fit and healthy, that I could not possibly benefit from an extra few miles of biking”. Occasionally this is true, like if you just returned from a mountain century ride and have raw butt cheeks, blistered hands, and absolutely no energy left to crank the pedals. In this situation, sure, go ahead and take the car out to get groceries. You deserve it. For the rest of us, what is your excuse? Unless you just rode 60 miles, you will probably benefit greatly by leaving the car at home.

So there you have it: 3 simple steps to automotive habit change. With every potential car trip, think of the 24 plates of wasted salmon. Ask yourself if it’s worth being a deliberate asshole, and ask yourself if you have any possible use for a bit more health and physical fitness. Do it every time, so it becomes a habit.

You may find your automobile travel being greatly reduced, which of course has massive financial benefits as well. And for those remaining trips that pass the Triple Anti-Car-Clown Gauntlet: well, those are probably some hella good car trips, so you will have such a good time that it will be worth the consequences.

 

Epilogue, 1 day later: As usual, this article has gathered its share of complaints from new readers. “Waah, Waah, don’t call me a clown”, “Biking is dangerous where I live”, etc.

Instead of continuing my usual bossy insensitive life coach routine, I’ll take a rare moment to remind those people what I’m really trying to accomplish with this article: It’s not to make you feel bad or to try to make myself feel good. It is just to raise awareness about how there really is an alternative to a nothing-but-cars lifestyle if you think about it when making future decisions.

Sure, you might have trapped yourself into a car-dependent lifestyle for now. But remember, you created that trap yourself. If you get in the habit of lightheartedly calling yourself a clown every time you drive, and imagining those 24 plates of wasted food, you’ll start thinking, “hey, maybe there’s another way”.

Then, you might try walking or biking (or hell, even taking the train) on a fair-weather basis. Just do it when it’s easy. Then, it will get easier, which means that soon enough, it will be easy most of the time.

Next time you move to a new house or a new job, suddenly the consideration of “I’d rather not be a car clown” will be in your mind. You will make more balanced decisions. The reason I took the job in Boulder instead of Petaluma way back in 1999 was because I could afford a house within biking distance of work here, but I couldn’t out there. Even if you live in the center of a NASCAR oval right now, and work 67 miles away, you don’t have to do that forever. You, too, have a choice of where you live and work in the future. I’m just planting a seed in your mind.

Only once this seed grows into the fruit of independence, can you wean yourself from the Poisonous Teat of the Automobile.

  • Josh Zytkiewicz April 22, 2013, 3:18 pm

    I haven’t seen anyone mention getting a moped/scooter or motorcycle to replace or augment your automobile.

    In most states you don’t need a special license for a moped/scooter.

    Gas mileage is usually between 40 and 100 MPG.

    Insurance is much less than for a car. I pay $9/month.

    Brand new, high quality moped/scooters cost between $1000-2000

    With the right gear you can ride in all types of weather. Even in Wisconsin I regularly ride from March to November.

    I can get anywhere in my city on a moped in the same amount of time it would take in a car. And I never pay for parking.

    Yes, there are disadvantages.
    Cargo space is limited, but that hasn’t stopped me from grocery shopping.
    Passenger space is also nonexistent.
    Not as comfortable as a car in inclement weather.

    But overall I’m very happy. I think a lot of people who are multiple car families could replace one or more vehicles with a moped or motorcycle and not see their lives impacted negatively.

    Reply
  • John Danks April 22, 2013, 4:00 pm

    I’ve been off and on biking to work over the last year or two. I would find excuses like the weather or needing that extra 15 minutes because I’m *so busy* and quit riding for a month or three. Since the start of Anti-automobile April I’ve been biking every day. Today I purchased a rear rack for my bike so that I can start transporting more than just myself and a backpack. The man at the shop offered to install it for only $9.50 but I figured that wasn’t very mustachian so I’m doing it myself tonight. Hopefully that will open up even more opportunities for biking instead of driving. I can even see DIY panniers in my near future.

    Reply
  • John April 22, 2013, 4:17 pm

    Curious to hear MMM’s stance on public transportation for those of us that live in cities? It costs me about $40 – $50 a month to commute via my cities train. I live about 4 miles from work and it takes me 20 minutes door to door. I suppose I could bike, but Winters can get brutal here :)

    Reply
  • Kyrie Robinson April 22, 2013, 4:35 pm

    How ironic. I went on a 6m run saturday morning, and then a 30 mile bike ride on Saturday afternoon, and then Sunday we biked to tennis and then biked to the toy store to get a birthday present and then biked to the party (and back)… and by the end I was so tired afterward that I actually took the car to run my four errands — all within 3 miles (goodwill, UPS store, drop a check at my sisters, and Trader Joe’s). And yes, I was deeply, deeply embarrassed to be driving my car. Especially since I JUST GOT two new bike panniers just so that I could do the grocery shopping on my bike. Glad to see that MMM does make allowances that if you are exhausted bc you exercised too much in a given day, you might get a slight pass.

    Reply
  • Kyrie Robinson April 22, 2013, 4:46 pm

    “Hi. I am Andy. I am Kyrie’s son. Yesterday she made me bike to tennis and bike to the toy store and bike all around, and by the end I was so tired that we actually ended up having to ride the car to 4 different errands. However I’m still very happy that our Mom bought us new bikes a month ago.

    I really enjoy listening to our Mom reading us different entries from MMM. I think you’re really funny, and I still can’t figure out why you never show pictures of yourself. (Maybe it’s because you wear Gucci shirts and pants that are really expensive that would blow your MMM cover?)

    I think it’s funny when you put bad words into your blog. But don’t worry – I won’t tell anyone. ;-)

    I also like how you talk about your family because it gives me a sense of what it’s like to be a cheapskate. :-)

    –Andy (9 yrs old)

    p.s.
    I think you should call people under the age of 16 mini-mustachians, because I don’t really like the term “junior.” It makes it sound like you’re talking about a bunch of 9 year olds. Which I am. But still. “

    Reply
  • Elwood April 22, 2013, 5:27 pm

    “When I see a car ease into a parking spot, I always run to assist the driver with getting out into their wheelchair, but I am stunned to find that they usually have working legs after all!”

    I’ve seriously been laughing for the last 5 minutes at this sentence haha

    Reply
  • Ingrid April 22, 2013, 5:47 pm

    MMM: I don’t know what’s wrong with me, since I seem to be the only one who finds your stories arrogant and condescending. I understand that you feel great about yourself for having accomplished so much in your life, but I see a certain lack of understanding for what other people’s situations are. I just started reading your blog a month or so ago and although I don’t mind strong language, I do mind being called an asshole by a self-important person like you. I think there should be a better way to communicate what you want to say. And apropos your biking post – yes, although, you will not admit it of course, there are cities, that are not suitable for biking. The son of a friend of mine spent all of last summer in several casts because he was run down by an old lady in a SUV. Don’t call us assholes, try to work with us to change the car habit in this country. Most of the people reading your blog already try very hard, it’s the people who don’t read it, who have to be convinced.

    Reply
    • KB April 23, 2013, 8:47 am

      If I forwarded this post to someone who hasn’t read MMM before, they might find it harsh. MMM is a funny guy, this is just his style of getting his point across. I pick my kids up from school all the time and so do most of my friends who live even closer to the school than me (we are on the bus route but I pick up daycare kids after school most days as well as my own otherwise my kids take the bus), I go through a coffee or fast food drive thru about 3-4 times per month. I have 2 groceries stores that take me less than 5 minutes to drive to that I’m sure I could walk to at least some times. I’m pretty sure I could bike there in about 5-7 minutes. I walk my dog for 20 mins then drive to the grocery store!

      I do walk to a few things and I am in a running group but the car mentality is so part of our culture, most people don’t even think about it.
      He’s just trying in his own “humourous tongue in cheek but I’m serious too way” to get people like me and your average person to think twice about getting into your car when you can walk or bike and get some fresh air and excercise. As you can see by the responses, many people do bike or don’t because of safety factors but people who don’t read MMM often drive just for convenience.

      Simply do the best you can do and be an example to your family and friends!

      Reply
    • plam April 25, 2013, 7:27 am

      I think it’s part of a persona. I have no idea how MMM is in real life.

      But really, who would listen to Mild-Mannered Mustache, eh?

      Reply
  • Alexandria April 22, 2013, 6:06 pm

    I’ve thought through all this (including smart car, motorcycle, moped), but it all comes down to our small vehicle being more practical (financially and otherwise) and the most safe.

    I’d maybe consider bike riding to work if we lived in a bigger bike culture. As is, I am concerned about personal safety as single female bicycle rider in unsafe areas. One reason I would not even consider motorcycle is due to horrible accidents every single biker I know have been in. I live in a city full of driving a-holes. It’s scary enough to walk or bike in our neighborhood, and no doubt why horrid motorcycle accidents seem to be the norm. Living in a city full of bicyclists sounds idyllic. It would change the playing field a bit. Pedestrians and bikers would get more respect.

    All that said, I will be thinking about this all harder next time we buy a home. I may never be a bike commuter and staying close to relatives is important to us. But we could put it higher in our priorities to live (and/or work) in a safer-for-pedestrians/more walkable neighborhood. (We’ve already moved 100 miles to simplify, so there may be 200-300 square miles I’d consider moving to. Not like I can only live in one city or area).

    On the school situation – parents blow my mind. !!! I just wanted to add the feedback we get goes both ways. Thankfully, many kids have voiced jealousy over the years, that our kids live walking distance and walk to school. That said, sometimes we have kids in our care (ages 5-10) who have obviously never been asked to walk a few steps in their life (& boy are they whiny when we have to end up walking them to/from school). We’ve been experiencing this *a lot* lately. I wonder what happened to all those jealous kids? Did it just sound nice until they realized they’d actually have to use their own two feet?

    Reply
    • Osprey April 23, 2013, 5:04 am

      Yeah. I get frustrated sometimes when my concerns about safety are waved aside – by people who have never even been to my neck of the woods. Lately I’ve been researching better places to live…

      Reply
  • ClevrChico April 22, 2013, 6:15 pm

    As a gearhead, I was almost fuming at your reference to clowns! Come on man, the new Camaro is sweet.

    But, you’re right. I’ve been driving/owning cars for twenty years, and looking back, I never NEEDED a car. The lifestyle changes would have actually been pretty minor.

    I think for most people, going to ONE car would be a great first step.

    Reply
    • Judith April 22, 2013, 7:13 pm

      Going to one car AND one bike would be a great first step.

      If people bike even a small amount…. say to go to the library, or to buy a bottle of wine, or go to the neighborhood pub for the evening…. then when they do get back in their vehicle the are sensitive to the concerns of the cyclists!

      That is why there is such a strong bike culture in Europe. People are not just a biker or a driver…. they do both! That is the only way the “culture” shift is going to happen…. a bit at a time.

      Europeans also realize that you a fine to ride a bike with your regular clothes. None of this spandex crap, sweat it up and need a shower at the office! Check out http://www.copenhagencyclechic.com.

      Reply
      • Matt (Semper Fi) September 30, 2016, 6:50 am

        Judith, that is SO true! I used to be a real dick to bicyclists, but I have had a real change of heart, and feel pretty ashamed about how I used to feel about them. Even though I bike over 90% of the time now, there are some things that still irritate me about some cyclists, such as riding side-by-side in such a way that one of them is a foot or so into the lane, impeding cars to pass with three feet of clearance. I feel cyclists should ride single file unless there is plenty of room for riding side-by-side. I realize that cyclists are considered vehicles when on a road, but I think some of them should be more considerate to drivers, and definitely vice versa.

        Reply
  • Jen April 22, 2013, 6:44 pm

    Although I’m new here, I’ve yet to see anyone else mention this, so I’m gonna get within face-punching range and ask: what if I simply don’t enjoy biking? In fact, what if I really kind of hate it?

    Reply
    • Cheryl April 22, 2013, 8:54 pm

      Try walking, where it works? Find a cool umbrella and a good jacket, comfy shoes and off you go.

      I’ve only been driving for five years and love, love love the freedom it offers but I still got around to work and everywhere else for the 15 years before that just fine.

      Plus the payoff, as others have mentioned, of sexy legs.

      Reply
      • Jen April 23, 2013, 1:56 pm

        Oh yeah, walking is awesome. We could nerd out on great walking shoes here, I bet…

        I miss living in a town with great public transportation for that reason. That, and all the extra reading time you get on the train/bus.

        Reply
        • Emmers April 28, 2013, 10:57 am

          Walking is the best! I enjoy recreational biking, but commute biking is iffy for me (last 3 miles are through an industrial area with no bike lane, debris-strewn shoulder, and semi trucks/dump trucks going 50mph). But I would say walking is *definitely* Mustachian. :-) So is public transit.

          Reply
    • Naners April 23, 2013, 11:15 am

      Do you have bike that doesn’t fit you right? Or the wrong type of bike, a road bike when you should be using something with a more upright posture, for example? Did you pump the tires up to the right pressure before going out? No face-punching from me, just wondering if you might not be doing it right. I see lots of people this time of year puffing and sweating on ancient mountain bikes with half-flat tires and rusty chains, with the seat too low. I would hate biking too if I was on that kind of bike. This is why I think many people who want to start a bike habit are better off going to a bike store and spending $500 on the right bike, rather than trying to save money by getting something off Craigslist when they don’t yet know what they want or need.

      Reply
      • Jen April 23, 2013, 2:22 pm

        Good question! If I say that bikes tend to hurt my butt and make my shoulders ache (I have a busted disc in my neck that makes posture stuff super important), can you diagnose bike woes?

        See, I loved riding a bike as kid, so I feel like I should be able to love it again!

        How would I go about finding the right bike for me?

        Reply
        • Naners April 23, 2013, 7:04 pm

          You might do better with a bike with a really upright riding posture, something in the Dutch/step through style, maybe like this:
          http://publicbikes.com/c/step-thru-bikes
          I find that a more upright posture is more comfortable on the butt as well as shoulders. If it’s less the cheeks than the (ahem) ladyparts getting smooshed, consider a split saddle or one with a lady-specific cutout. Your butt will also just get more used to riding with time, although it shouldn’t be agony in the beginning if you have the right bike/saddle combo. Finally, never carry anything on your back on a bike (backpack or even a heavy purse). It will be hard on neck, back and crotch. Get a basket or pannier installed on your bike instead. Hope this is helpful – and good luck!

          Reply
          • Jen April 24, 2013, 4:39 pm

            Hahaha. *Ladyparts.*

            This is all really helpful advice; it never would have occurred to me that a backpack might be problematic.

            I’m inspired to try out some options to see if I can un-hate biking. Looking locally, Reno (I live about 40 miles away), has a really cool business: http://www.renobikeproject.com/

            Thanks for all the advice!

            Reply
      • Gen Y Finance Journey April 26, 2013, 1:51 pm

        Ooh! Ooh! Diagnose me too! I went to college on a very bike-friendly campus, which is when I learned that biking really hurts my knees. My theory is that my quads are too tight and it causes a lack of flexibility in my knees (you know how most people can sit on their feet? I can’t do that. There’s a good inch or two of space between my butt and my feet when I try, and even that hurts my knees).

        I’ve tried stretching my quads of course, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. Is there a particular type of bike that might help me?

        Reply
        • Jen April 29, 2013, 11:23 am

          While I’m no good at diagnosing bike-ness, allow me to get slightly off-topic for a second and suggest something called Yin Yoga. The Wikipedia entry explains it pretty well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yin_yoga.

          I have a some disc issues in my neck (I herniated it 8 years ago while PLAYING GUITAR, that’s how awesome *I* am…) and I started practicing this slow and gentle yoga about two years ago. It’s awesome for things like old injury sites and joint pain, and it’s specifically designed to help break up stiff connective tissues like the stuff that makes our knees hurt.

          Personally, this was the first step in a journey of “working towards awesomeness.” Among other things, it sparked my desire to consume less and move around more.

          Something like Yin YogaYin Yoga (or something like it) might help you find more flexibility and range of motion in your body, which might lead to more comfortable biking!

          Anyway, hope that helps.

          Reply
      • Jen June 28, 2013, 5:51 pm

        Hey Naners!

        Not sure you’ll see this, but I wanted you to know that I picked a bike!

        My sister recently bought a Schwinn Meridian Trike (long story short: her husband is taking her to Burning Man this year and she wanted something that wouldn’t fall over if she was too intoxicated to keep it upright). We have ridden that bike more in the month she’s had it than we’ve ridden any bikes since we were kids.

        The seat is comfortable, the setup is kind to my neck, shoulders, and back, and it’s a really easy ride around our relatively flat town. There will be no barreling down mountains with it, but as I said to my boyfriend, that isn’t really what I want a bike for anyway!

        Today, little sister decided to order one for me so we could start our tricycle gang sooner rather than later. I can pay pay the $270 loan interest-free by the end of the summer and if I end up not liking it, I can sell it on CL for at least $175. To me, $100 is a decent amount to spend on trying out something that could be financials and psychically beneficial. Plus. $300 was my price point for “I wonder if I can be a bike person.”

        Anyway, I just wanted to say THANK YOU for encouraging me to look for something comfortable. I’ve been eying lots of dutch / step-through bikes for the past few months on your recommendation, and when a relatively inexpensive and totally comfortable one came to live in my garage, the timing was perfect.

        Thanks again for all your help.

        Reply
    • Lorin April 23, 2013, 1:47 pm

      Jen, me, too! I hate biking. I learned late, had a few bad accidents as a kid and now I find it terribly uncomfortable. I (gasp) don’t even own a bike.

      I love to walk, though, and live just blocks from the train. Every day that I don’t get in the car is a victory.

      Reply
      • Jen April 23, 2013, 2:23 pm

        That makes me feel SO MUCH better. Thank you.

        Reply
  • Kristy April 22, 2013, 7:10 pm

    Ironic! Today, I finally got the vintage 1991 Schwinn out of storage and attempted a trip to the grocery store. I was pleasantly surprised it wasn’t as scary as I had feared, though being in North Carolina, there were many large trucks to avoid on the road.

    We’re moving in the fall and the priority is to find housing near to work, so my goal is to use the grocery store runs as practice for commuting by bike.

    My current quandary is how much to spend on the old bike, since I’m reasonably sure I’ll want to upgrade to something that isn’t steel when we move. I already had to replace the tires (rubber was rotten). The liners looked ok but one has a slow leak I can’t find that will need replacing.

    I do like the do-it-yourself panniers linked to above, though!

    Reply
  • George April 22, 2013, 7:16 pm

    I was out on the bike riding a day or two ago and saw some fellow citizens biking by, giving them the friendly wave or nod.

    Anytime I see others out on the streets riding, I always wonder whether they are fellow Mustachians or just regular bikers.

    An idea clicked in my head, that there needs to be some universally recognized MMM Mustachian symbol that one can display on their bikes to show that they follow the blog.

    It would be like the Hells Angles of biking, you could represent your bassassity and recognize fellow members across the globe.

    Reply
    • Jimbo April 23, 2013, 1:09 pm

      “My other bike is a mustache”

      Reply
  • wendi1 April 22, 2013, 8:16 pm

    I am 54 years old, and one big woman. When ordinary people (not jocks, not too poor to own a car, not children) ride their bikes places, a change in the culture does happen.

    I ride my bike to work as soon as they have the snow cleared. When I ride on the roads I take my metre (or yard, as you Americans say). I signal. I stop at stop signs. I shout at people who are opening their car doors in front of me (that stupid little bell is no good for nothin’). I warn people if I’m approaching them from behind. I don’t drive on the sidewalk. I DO carry my cell phone and a tire pump and a little tool kit.

    Be brave. You can wash up in the bathroom (I have). You can look ridiculous (I’m sure I have). You can fix your bike on the side of the road.

    Please don’t let fear stop you from this change.

    Reply
  • bogart April 22, 2013, 9:16 pm

    I’ll admit it, I’m skeptical of anyone who suggests to me that no, really, I/the world will be a much better place if I just spend $100+ to get a ________ so that I can _____. To the extent that I’m open to such possibilities, I typically find it works better for me to spend <$100 to try out some version of __________ and then, if I find I'm really committed to it, to perhaps spend the big bucks.

    Thus, Mustachian urging notwithstanding, I have not gone out and bought a $500 bicycle plus associated lighting, a trailer, and so forth. But. I am in fact working to make much more use of public transport getting to/from work (in particular, though not exclusively). This is simplified because my employer provides all employees a free bus pass, and also because I was able to talk them into buying me a tablet (so, no need to lug my laptop everywhere I go). Moreover, I did get a cheap, heavy, almost new bike for about $75 off Craigslist, dug out an old lock and my helmet, and drove the thing to my office (in my car!), where I keep it. So I use that some for getting around my workplace — a spread-out assortment of locations that can easily require I leave my office and travel 3-mile r/t to get to a meeting with coworkers. And I do use it (some) to get to/from the bus stop near my work, where I can park/lock it undercover (exact security unestablished, but remember, the bike's not really worth stealing and as it has no lights, panniers, etc., I needn't deal with detaching anything…).

    The town where I work and the town where I live are not the same town (and I like it that way), the inter-city/intra-city bus connections are lousy, and, as others have commented is their experience, not driving does add significant time (200% + if I didn't drive at all, about 100% if I do the in-town drive) to my commute. Plus, some days, with kid pickup arrangements it would leave me getting home post-kid-suppertime and post-kid-bedtime (somewhat OK when I'm not the one responsible for those activities, unworkable when I am — and I do like spending time with my kid and my hubby, I'll admit it.). So, I do mostly drive (gasp!) to the bus stop at the home end of the commute (about 8 miles, r/t, versus about 40 if I drove the whole trip).

    In short, at least for some of us, there exist midrange solutions that without being fully "Mustachian" are, nonetheless, improvements.

    Reply
    • Emmers April 28, 2013, 11:00 am

      Yeah, anyone who would call someone else weak or un-Mustachian for actually *wanting to see their kids in the evening* (whee, bedtimes) is just a jerk. I like your midrange solutions!

      Reply
  • Wileybadger April 22, 2013, 10:01 pm

    Ok – MrMM – I am shamed into riding tomorrow. I had been driving due to allergies – I started back on the bike during the cherry blossom peak here in Washington DC and gave myself a bad case of tree allergies. I’ve gotten comfortable driving the 7 miles into Virginia but I am now suitably shamed into leaving a bit earlier tomorrow to start up my regular bike commute into work.

    For those of you starting out, take it easy, ride one way and give yourself license to walk if you need to. You will soon find that biking slow in the right gears is faster than walking. For those of you more experienced riders (and runners) – please use lights – I don’t want to crash into you.

    I will be thinking of clowns as I whiz by the cars tomorrow – thank you for the nudge.

    Reply
  • Ingrid April 22, 2013, 10:35 pm

    Hi MMM, thanks for great articles!

    Years ago my dad used to comment & laugh at people who drove car to the gym – couldn’t they walk?! He never understood!

    Also, here in Sydney we have something called GoGet which let’s you hire car for as little as an hour! Fabulous idea! Car share at its best

    Reply
  • Weegie5 April 23, 2013, 12:21 am

    MMM, I like your example of the salmon lunch.

    Amory Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute claims < 1% of the energy in a car's gas tank actually moves the driver. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMTCNOlozTA#t=8m31s

    My own quick back-of-the-envelope calculation is that my 170 lbs only represents 4% of the total weight (me + car). I have a 2004 VW Golf TDI that gets ~40mpg and has a curb weight of ~4,000 lbs. Assuming a generous 40% efficiency for a diesel engine (probably closer to 35%, and maybe lower), and not taking into account drive train losses, a paltry 1.6% of the energy in my fuel tank actually moves me, the driver.

    This is an "efficient" car by many people's standards, and it is still astonishingly wasteful. It makes me sick when I succumb to pressure to drive short distances.

    Reply
  • Evan Lynch April 23, 2013, 1:02 am

    What saddens me about the United States is how unbike friendly 99% of the cities are in this country. There are a few rare exceptions – Davis, CA has Class 1 bike paths all over the city, and I know Boulder, CO is known for being really bike friendly, but most cities aren’t.

    I read an article a month or two about Denmark building an actual bicycle highway. I was kinda happy for them, but also sad about our car culture. Why can’t we do that here? I do plan on moving back to Chico eventually, much cheaper cost of living than where I live now, and it’s much more bike friendly than where I live currently. I’d do mostly practical biking – biking to Trader Joe’s to get grocery shopping. It’s too far to walk there from where I want to live, but it’d be an easy bike ride.

    On a different note, I’m curious what you think of bitcoins?

    Reply
    • Gunhild April 23, 2013, 2:18 am

      Denmark building a bicycle highway?! Where? I live in Denmark (Copenhagen) and do 90% of my transportation by bike (the rest mostly by public transportation), so I’m genuinely curious. I recon we don’t need a bicycle highway though, the streets are already superbly bikeable!

      Reply
      • Evan Lynch April 23, 2013, 1:29 pm

        Well, you live there, so you’d know the geography of Denmark better than I do, I just read an article about it in the New York Times website. Here’s the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/18/world/europe/in-denmark-pedaling-to-work-on-a-superhighway.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

        Reply
        • Lorin April 23, 2013, 1:55 pm

          I did my college study abroad in Copenhagen (many years ago now) and got to meet one of the then-city planners working. He told us that whenever they did a traffic study and found that a road was getting too crowded with cars – instead of adding a lane, as they’d do here in the US, they’d take a lane out & put in a bike lane (or more bike lanes). They found that by making driving less convenient than biking, over time, it encouraged residents to drive less.

          Reply
  • Dom April 23, 2013, 1:38 am

    I only live 4 miles from work, so I walk rather than bike at the moment. However, in my previous job I did. For those of you who are thinking of biking but don’t yet, here’s how it was for me.

    I lived 11 miles from work, and used to drive. I was overweight, stressed and unhappy. A colleague of mine who biked to work kept telling me that I should too – my answer to that was always something along the lines of “It’s easy for you, you only live 3 miles from work!” Anyway, he kept at it and one Friday I said “Right, next week, I will. I’ll start on Tuesday” (I had an off-site meeting on the Monday).

    On the Tuesday, I allowed myself plenty of time. I biked, slowly, to work. It was a struggle. At the end of the day I biked home. I was exhausted.

    On the Wednesday, I did the same thing again. I was even more exhausted.

    By the end of Thursday, I was ready to go to bed as soon as I got home.

    The Friday was ever-so-slightly better; my unfit body was beginning to realise that I was serious about this. I made it home; Right, I thought to myself, no more of that nasty exercise until Monday, time for a beer and a lazy weekend – which I duly had.

    On the Monday, I got on that bike and holy fuck, I felt like Superman! I stormed down the road like the proverbial bat out of hell, knocking a substantial percentage off my previous week’s time. Things only improved after that; I lost about 42 pounds in not-many-more days, my time improved further, and I felt a whole lot fitter, healthier, happier and less stressed. If I started out in a bad mood, I simply pedalled harder.I carried on biking every day, come rain, come shine, for the next six years.

    If someone as out-of-condition as I was can do it, anyone can. I appreciate that for some people there may be other constraints, but general fitness isn’t one of them – or if it is when you start, it won’t be six weeks later…

    Reply
    • Kruidig Meisje April 23, 2013, 2:46 am

      I heard of a lady (50’s) who was overweight and on statins (bad hart condition). She started biking (14 miles one way). First only once a week, and only on sunny days. Then also on non-rain days. Then also on slightly wet or slightly cold days. 2 times a week.
      She has lost 10 kg (22 pounds).
      Can you imagine she feels good?
      Her doctor has said she can leave off the statins.
      Can you imagine she feels great?
      The medicines did cost her money, which she nos saves
      Can you imagine she likes her bike now?
      She even rode in while it frooze. Good for her!
      She only made the changes she good mentally oversee. And again. And again. Now she is, were she never thought she would be. I find these stories so heartening.

      Reply
    • Sarah April 23, 2013, 3:35 pm

      this story makes me so happy…I may actually try my commute on a sunny saturday and see how far I get…it is 18 miles by car and 22 miles by bike trail. I will definitely need to work my way up to a 22 mile ride…but the good news is that my office DOES have a shower!!

      Reply
  • Kruidig Meisje April 23, 2013, 2:49 am

    Can I do a small rejoicement here. I started biking to work 7-8 years ago. (only summer days, a few times a year). Now I bike 10.000 km p jr.
    This morning I weighed in, and my BMI went down to <25, and I am now in the green again! Hurray! Small victory!

    Reply
  • Osprey April 23, 2013, 4:49 am

    Mr MM, it would be great if you could do a project where you try to bicycle around in different cities. Some neighbourhoods in my city don’t even have a biking option on google maps! I recently visited Europe and saw a real life bike path for the first time. I was in awe.

    Reply
    • Emmers April 28, 2013, 11:02 am

      Isn’t there some kind of “bike my city” blog or something? Would be awesome to see it from a Mustachian perspective, though!

      Reply
    • Dan October 6, 2014, 2:19 pm

      Osprey, many places where I live don’t either, yet I do it to work daily. Try cycling in safe areas first, build up confidence, follow the rules of the road, use google maps to see which streets are safer than others (a wide shoulder is very safe, sometimes an uninterrupted sidewalk feels safe, though the safest place to bike is on the road. Low traffic, such as suburban subdivisions, are great places to ride to work and cars won’t commute through these low speed areas, although biking through them is usually no big deal.

      Reply
  • 7years April 23, 2013, 5:07 am

    I personally prefer Jack Spirko’s turn of phrase (creator of http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com ) which he reserves for politicians: “Ass-Clowns.”

    I think it fits in this context. As in… ““Here we go. I’m being an ass-clown again. I’m about to put on my clown shoes and drive my clown car around for some ridiculous errands…what an ass-clown I am.”

    Reply
  • Chase Pursley (@gcpursley) April 23, 2013, 5:16 am

    MMM, here’s some positive news for you: Why aren’t younger Americans driving anymore?

    “Bicycling is up 24 percent overall in that time period. And this is true even for young Americans who are financially well off. ”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/04/22/why-arent-younger-americans-driving-anymore/

    Reply
  • Gerard April 23, 2013, 6:46 am

    Questions for people who can’t ride a bike where they live: What are you going to do about it? How can we help?

    Reply
  • acorn April 23, 2013, 7:50 am

    As a regular bike commuter, I would like to say- please, MMM, don’t feed the “drivers vs bikers” war. There are already so many drivers who feel a completely irrational hatred towards bikers- it doesn’t help if you suggest that every time I ride past a car, I’m thinking “what an a-hole.” I think it’s much more effective to talk up the benefits of biking, like free exercise, fresh air, fun, low cost, etc.

    Reply
    • Gmullz June 25, 2014, 12:25 pm

      One of the greatest points this article makes is that those apparent assholes didn’t make the choice to become car-clowns by themselves – society made that choice. The idea of being a car-clown is baked right into our culture. The idea of punching these car-clowns in the face is hilarious, but not realistic. Society needs to change, not the individuals. MMM knows this.

      The point of this article is to raise awareness so that once you’ve read it, you’ll know you’re being an asshole whenever you drive needlessly. Once you realize it, you can work to change it. If enough people change, society will change.

      Reply
    • Rollie June 28, 2014, 2:47 pm

      Ah, but sometimes it’s hard to praise the benefits of something without first addressing the shortcomings of the thing that’s violently, stubbornly and irrationally displacing it. Don’t make peace with these people, unless they’re willing to come around. Until then, they are rightly and deservedly, Clowns and assholes. They are the real offenders, and ironically, the really powerless ones. They might not know it, and that’s where you get to cut them some slack as human beings. But praising the benefits of not killing Jews probably wouldn’t have stopped Hitler. (Godwin’s Law! another triumph)

      So as to the ones with the irrational hatred of cyclists, I think it’s fair and healthy for them to know fully that yes, “I hate you too.” They’re just projecting all their own fear and insecurity onto those cyclists out there, who “must be crazy” or have a “death wish” to put themselves in such a vulnerable position. (And conveniently this also means that if they happen to run one over, it’s not even their fault but some form of assisted suicide, I guess?) Educate them if you can, but most of them are such craven sissies that the education can start first and foremost with giving them the “Eye of the Tiger” just like the superior adversary you are, so that A) they can know their proper place, and B) you can blow their mind by not just crumpling meekly under their wheels like in so many of their recurring fantasies. Badassity.

      Reply
  • Mike April 23, 2013, 7:57 am

    Like so many things, it seems like balance is the key here. I ride my bike, walk, or run back and forth to work every day, in all weather. My kids walk back and forth to school every day. We walk or ride to friends’ houses. That said, there is no way I’m carting a week’s worth of groceries up and down the gargantuan hills on the three-mile ride to the grocery store from our house when I have a perfectly good, relatively fuel-efficient mini-van sitting in my driveway.

    And good luck getting the Mrs. to ride a bike to her job, even though it is relatively close, since she has to have a professional appearance at the office. I’ve tried. Not happening.

    I loved this post though! When we move on to our next place, we are going to deliberately aim for a place where we can walk or ride to as many of the places that we need to on a daily basis.

    Reply
  • Matt F April 23, 2013, 8:19 am

    I’ve been steadily increasing my biking thanks to MMM. I do feel for people with tough biking areas, my bike commute is 11 miles each way (only 6 if I drive) to get to a road with a bike lane and an industrial park with a bike path. I still ride for about 2 total miles on sidewalks through industrial areas on 5-7 total lane industrial zoned arterial roads with 45-50 mph speed limits that are bumper to bumper for ~3 hours morning and afternoon during rush hour.

    My local laws say sidewalks are fine for roads over 35 mph. The sidewalks are attached directly to the curb (no grassy divider, and no shoulder on the roads) so it is almost like a bike lane and I see maybe 1 pedestrian a week (for whom I will generally ride on the grass or get off the bike if there is no room).

    I am pretty sure I am the only person in my area riding those roads who also has a drivers license, but the industrial park has a bunch of serious bikers who I see out riding in training groups occasionally. I figure the more people who see me riding, the more they will think to look for bikers and maybe someone else will start commuting too. I also ride with blinky lights front and rear, and a safety vest with reflective tape.

    Reply
  • effigy98 April 23, 2013, 9:02 am

    I was very inspired about biking to work after reading so many posts on this website. My commute was 32 miles to work and back. At first it was pretty difficult on top of starting biking in November with the rain cold. I pushed thru it and about a month or two later I started really (REALLY!) enjoying it. My stress level went down and I started dropping weight at a steady pace and gaining muscle. I also felt mentally stronger (hey I just biked into work for 16 miles in the pooring rain and cold) and started to build confidence in other areas of my life. On top of all the other benifits, my commute time (vs a car) was actually the SAME because I did not have to sit on the 2 mile stretch of road that took 30 minutes to go thru because of the thousands of cars trying to get thru a few stop lights. Over time, the bike and equipment would pay for themselves with saved gas and car maintainance.

    Then one day, I was doing my normal commute to work. Some lady texting runs right into me full speed. I got the enjoyment of sitting in the ER that day, missing work, and my new bike just bought 4 months ago frame is completly broken. Now I’m going to the doctor several times a week to get fixed up. When I drive to work, I notice about a third of the drivers have phones up to their ears even though it is illegal in my state. They are in these DEATH MACHINES waiting to kill someone any minute now and we have a lot of bike commuters. One of the doctors said it was funny there was a guy that he saw just before me that was hit with a passing truck mirror in really bad shape. Then I hear all these stories of others in my area in really bad accidents with cars. I used to skydive multiple times a week and felt safer then biking in our bike lanes in the city. Not sure if I can get back on a bike again. My clown car at least has some steel around it to protect me from all the other clowns.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 23, 2013, 10:11 am

      Man, I am so sorry to hear that, ’98. In your situation, I too might get back in the car (or at least move somewhere else to be away from the dangerous traffic).

      I actually was hit by a car while biking once. It was in 1997. It was my own fault – crossing in the dark on a one-way-road that I thought was two ways. With no lights. And no helmet. I was knocked off in a straight-sideways 35MPH impact by the pointy bumper of a Pontiac Sunfire. My head broke her windshield and her bumper broke my ankle while turning my bike into a scary pretzel. I woke up when the ambulance picked me off of the dark, rainy road. I was extremely lucky to be alive, and even luckier to have only a broken ankle, which was healed and pedaling my bike for me again in only 4-6 weeks.

      But when you’re talking about safety, it’s only meaningful to talk about statistics. Bikes are not all that dangerous (I’ve read so many articles with the stats, but never published one myself yet). Accidents where the cyclist gets hit from behind (the type most people fear), are extremely rare. Crashes like mine, where the biker makes an obviously dumbass move, make up the vast majority of bike accidents. Good visibility and a healthy assumption that the clowns will do dumb things will greatly improve safety too.

      More importantly, when considering the dangers of cycling, you need to consider the danger of not cycling too. It makes you live longer and have much better health. The amount of life gained by cycling is much greater (some estimates put it at 20 times greater) than the amount you statistically lose due to risk of injury or death. And you live *better*. To those of us who do it, cycling IS being alive.

      All the same, I am so sorry about your crash and I understand your frustration!

      Reply
      • George April 23, 2013, 7:47 pm

        yeah a lot of the dangers that exist for bikes can be mitigated somewhat by taking some precautions ahead of time; although sadly accidents do happen rarely;

        I never leave home without first wearing a helmet and a yellow construction vest that has built in reflectors; you can buy them from lowes for about $8 (cheaper than similar clothing at fancy bike stores); obviously at night, in the fall, and winter, front and back lights are key as well; in the real dark, you better make your bike look like a flippin Christmas tree;

        I found it safest to spend about 95% of your time on the berm of the road or farthest right edge of the road (admitted some roads have no berms, I try to avoid these); the only time I come out is to get around a car parked on the street or to make a left turn at an intersection;

        Often times you can also find hidden alleys and lesser used neighborhood streets if you plan your route carefully using google maps and satellite images as well; you never notice these little allies while driving but on a bike they become much easier to spot;

        Another thing I found a huge help is that I added a rear-view mirror that extends out from my left-handle bar (I got it from walmart for prob about $10, I couldn’t make a curved mirror and couldn’t find one used);

        This made a huge difference, on the roads, now I can see cars coming up from behind me, I can tell whether they will trying to cut in front of my path and make a sudden right turn; I can tell when to slow down just let them pass before I have to come out a bit to get around a car parked along the road

        At stop sign intersections, I highly recommend you never go until you have made eye contact with the other driver; most are nice and will get you the ok to go; if they dont make eye contact, don’t try it, just wait; people on phones or i-terds don’t make eye contact; also while making the turn, use your arms as turn signals; at stop-lights, always be aware whats going on and do defensive riding;

        I think some bikers assume normal traffic rules apply where sometimes by default you have the right of way while on the roads; however, the truth is on a bike you never have the right of way; its best to default to letting the impatient drivers go ahead or get the ok from them first;

        Lastly, watch out for school buses; in my area for some reason these are the most dangerous nastiest vehicles on the road and have little regard for bicyclers; the school bus drivers don’t seem to give a shit about anyone except the kids on that bus

        Reply
        • chermysl May 1, 2013, 3:49 pm

          “Right of weight.”

          Reply
    • effig98 October 31, 2013, 1:54 pm

      So I have to add an updated reply even if it is an old post in case a new reader comes across it. I started biking again and received even a better ride from the insurance settlement and updated visibility accessories based on my previous experiences :). I called up Dinotte lighting and explained what happened and how I need extreme visibility and he hooked me up with a RED series that cannot be missed, he sent me a yellow (the yellow seems to really get peoples attention) front light and red rear. Expensive, but worth it to me for the peace of mind that cars know where I’m at. Driver behavior is much changed as they slow down a lot more and give me wider clearance. I also notice people mostly stop at intersections and are much more careful around me.

      Overall the experience taught me to be super cautious on my bike commute. I always make eye contact with drivers before crossing roads. I respect stop signs even if I think I’m sure nobody is coming. It takes me longer and I use trails away from the road most of the commute now, but I feel safer and love how much better I feel when I ride to work vs driving the clown car in nearly all aspects of my life. I am back to loosing weight again after a major setback of minor depression after the accident and on my way to moving on with my life. As has been said on this blog many times, biking can improve all aspects of your life and save you a ton of money… It has for me. Do I get a little scared every time I ride to work, sure, but it’s exciting too and when I get to work I can say, hey, I just saved like 10 bucks not driving today, reduced my stress level, burned a bunch of calories, increased my toughness, and enjoyed nature by biking around a beautiful lake! My workplace even pays us more money for biking vs driving… just an added bonus on top of the other 50 things. Anyways, thanks MM for all your advice, it really is life changing and presented in a way that is motivating and fun to read.

      Reply
      • Jad D. February 8, 2017, 8:05 am

        Thanks for sharing that, effig98!

        Reply
  • Sdpinaz April 23, 2013, 9:24 am

    How fitting, this post. I wanted to share…. I punched a driver in the face on sunday! figuratively of, course. As my wife and I were biking home from the grocery, sunday morning, smack dab in the middle of the crosswalk with the rest of the traffic patiently waiting for us, we almost got dozed over by this little lady in her early 40’s driving her F250 driving home from the gym. she came screaming to a halt and rolled her window down and yelled at us. Yelled at US for being in the crosswalk. I stopped my bike infront of her truck and promptly explained to her how a crosswalk works, I was agressive enough that she actually had to hang up her phone to respond to me. Alas, all she could respond with was to tell me to ‘fuck off and get out of the road’ I didn’t fuck off, but I did get out of the road. oh well. Can we somehow monkey wrench every F250 out there and replace the airbag with a remotely triggered punch-in-the-face machine? All F250’s crammed with a seven guy crew and twelve shovels and large boulders and jack hammers exempt, of course…….

    Reply
    • Mike August 21, 2014, 3:43 pm

      It sounds like in this situation the lady in the truck wasn’t paying attention at all, so it may not have mattered, but you shouldn’t be riding your bike in the crosswalk. Generally, drivers have to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, but as a bicyclist you are not a pedestrian and should be using the bike lane or normal traffic lane at an intersection. Alternately, you can walk your bike across the street in the crosswalk as we were taught in elementary school. The reason behind this is that drivers expect slow moving objects in a crosswalk, and typically won’t be looking far enough ahead to see a faster moving bicyclist. There are exceptions of course, like crosswalks that connect two segments of a bike path where it crosses a road.

      Reply
  • RT April 23, 2013, 11:37 am

    Just my $.02

    I live rurally, and work in a town 30 miles away. My kids also attend school there – so we drive a lot (2,000 miles/month on each of 2 vehicles) — I know, I know. With our 4 teenagers reaching adulthood, and having only 2 younger children left at home, I recently downsized vehicles from a Suburban to a Mazda 3 hatch (from 15 mpg to 40 mpg! WOOHOO!).

    It’s not feasible for me to commute to work by bike. But I have taken this biking challenge and tried to fit it into what I CAN do, right now. I live 15 miles from the largest town in my area that has all the grocery stores, etc. It also has a nice bike path that winds through town, making it convenient to get from one side of town to the other without using the roads. I have started keeping a list of errands that I need to do in town, and waiting for the weekend to do them. Then I drive my two younger kids (6 & 9) into town with their bikes, park at a good spot along the bike path, and we ride to do our list of errands. Then we return to the car and drive home. We get in exercise, fresh air, errands, and quality family time all rolled into one.

    It’s certainly not an ideal solution, but it’s what we can do right now. Maybe some of you can’t commute to work, but start thinking outside of the box at what you CAN do. I think it’s the little things that start to add up to big changes.

    Reply
    • Fuzz April 26, 2013, 6:09 pm

      Hey! I think that’s pretty cool. Nice work!

      Reply
  • Lew Lamar April 23, 2013, 11:40 am

    I’ve ridden my bike to work for many years. I used to work in a company that was about 10 miles from home, so I’d get a 20 mile ride every day. It was less in the winter because it would get dark & I’d put my bike on the bus for most of the trip home at night. Years after I worked there, I stopped in to visit. I met someone new, who had heard about me riding, and said, “Oh you’re the one who used to ride from Felton”. I was kind of proud that I made a name for myself in that way.
    Now there are times that I have to travel to Silicon Valley to work on projects. I was going there once a week, taking a bus and train to get there. The office was a mile from the train station so I got a “scooter for grownups” and I could do that last mile in less than half the time vs walking. I saw about four other people who had one too.

    Reply
  • MacGyverIt April 23, 2013, 11:41 am

    Good christ I have not even finished the article and I have to comment —

    “I always run to assist the driver with getting out into their wheelchair, but I am stunned to find that they usually have working legs after all!”

    Brother, this is so right on. And pardon me while I charge into a personal tirade….

    I spent far too long in a wheel chair and on crutches and invariably at my work we’d run out of designated handicapped parking space b/c people who could walk — without any need for support, any visible limp or winces of pain as they took steps — sauntered into the office meanwhile I parked as close as I could to the door (or drove around for a long while) and made do.

    For the record, if you can walk without a wheel chair or crutches (and yes, I absolutely mean most folks walking with canes b/c I’ve done that, too) then fucking park in a regular parking space. Yes, there are needier people looking for parking and physical therapy can include a short walk to the front door just before you find the elevator.

    I don’t like admitting but this is the MMM forum and honesty is tantamount: I’ve had several “hate humanity” moments during this time. Like when a woman who walked just fine … but at 5’3″ weighed over 200 lbs claimed “knee problems” (um, ya think??), used my condition as the example of why “we” needed more handicapped parking.

    Truly, I’d like to see the medical profession step up to the plate and just say no to the handicap permit. If you are *truly* handicapped then there are few things in life greater than the ability to NOT EVER AGAIN use a handicapped license plate or tag. EVER. AGAIN.

    I look forward to the day I can bike all over — I will do it, it will happen — and I absolutely expect the “handicapped” I’ve observed over the years — those folks walking, going up and down stairs far easier than me — to be honest with themselves and think of those less mobile when they park, in addition to also making the personal goal of biking all over. Because you can do it, too.

    Reply
    • Pat April 25, 2013, 8:25 am

      My Mom had a bad heart (70% backflow from her aorta into her heart instead of out to her body) and the handicapped permit. She had the same issues finding a spot, plus people would be nasty to her because she didn’t look like she needed the spot. Because of this I am extremely aware of mis-use of handicapped parking. I have actually said things to people parking in them without a permit. Usually a rude response. For the rest of us, the longer walk to our destination is good for us – free execise!

      Reply
    • Amanda April 25, 2013, 9:06 am

      I understand that there are a ton of people using handicap spaces that absolutely do not need them, but I really hope that you don’t express your “hate humanity” attitude to strangers you make assumptions about. I’m guessing you don’t, but there are plenty of people who do.

      A reminder for people judging handicap space users: My sister appears completely able-bodied. She is in her early 30’s and there is nothing at all wrong with her legs, knees, hips, feet, etc. However, she has a severe lung condition and can hardly walk 40 feet without being completely out of breath. Almost anytime she is walking, she is using supplemental oxygen, but she generally carries the tank in a backpack and so it would be easy to not notice. Don’t be the person giving her the evil eye. She would love to ride her bike, but she had to give it away.

      Reply
      • Emmers April 28, 2013, 11:20 am

        Amen to “don’t be the person giving her the evil eye.” Please don’t do this.

        Reply
    • Mike August 21, 2014, 4:15 pm

      What I don’t understand are the handicapped parking spots at trailheads going into wilderness areas. If you can hike a rocky trail, you should be able to walk across a parking lot.

      Reply
  • Maia April 23, 2013, 12:04 pm

    Funny post! I was bummed when I bought my house, it’s close to my city’s downtown and I had wished to live further out of town. Now I realize how lucky I am to live where I can walk and bike to pretty much all the places in town that I regularly frequent. It was a blessing in disguise.

    Reply
  • Brooke April 23, 2013, 12:05 pm

    I work with several people who commute two hours a day. I was willing to make that sacrifice years ago but the wear and tear killed my car. It was a harsh learning lesson but ultimately I discovered living closer to work I was able to get sufficient sleep and my expenses were lower overall. Some people are not willing to reassess their options or factor in those invisible variables of personal value/hour and car maintenance. When you finally do look at that big picture you might be more willing to take the leap of relocating or finding a job with less hours that is closer to home and actually come out ahead, effectively giving yourself a raise!

    Reply
  • John April 23, 2013, 12:19 pm

    I’m fortunate to live in an area with great paved bike paths– Northern Virginia. I only have to bike on a busy road about 1.75 miles before I get to the W&OD trail. That takes me almost the entire way to my workplace. It’s 16.5 miles each way, and weather is a factor I consider before biking to work, but I do it once a week (with some lazy weeks in there somewhere) much of the Spring, Fall, and part of the Summer. Crossing some of the roads is dicey, but I’m cautious. I’m a big guy who needs to lose a fair amount, and this helps alleviate the boredom of the elliptical machine or the treadmill at the gym. It’s not a perfect solution, but if I can get some exercise and save 20% of my fuel and vehicular stress on the packed Washington, DC area roads, why not?

    Reply
    • Sarah April 24, 2013, 11:47 am

      Hi John, I’m 2 miles from the W&OD trail and if I take it will have 22 miles to work…not sure I can do it…but VERY proud of you!!!

      Reply
  • Abigail's mom April 23, 2013, 12:31 pm

    Thanks, MMM, for this wonderful post. As I sit here at my desk in downtown Vancouver, overlooking the marina at Coal HarbourI think about the time I will be able to walk to work, walk to my daughter’s daycare and do so many things centred in my beautiful neighbourhood which I sadly leave every morning, drive to drop off my daughter at a daycare centre, park the ‘beast’ by the roadside, jump on a train that I expensively for and head out to the city just to look for the dollars to enable me run through the same shit all over again. I am so done with this…..however I still have to play the part as I continue to search for work within walkable distance and build my business on the side. I drive for about 20 minutes a day in total but I don’t enjoy it. Anyway I am searching for a better and healthier lifestyle that doesn’t tie me to a car. By the way I only purchased the car in December 2012 after having endured a six week rain-trial period where I insisted on takingthe bus to the daycare with my daughter in a stroller. I gave up after I started working again but I am now actively searching for jobs in my beautiful neighbourhood. By the way, my office overlooks Coal Harbour and the beautiful Vancouver mountains but everyday I think about the boats that are parked most of the year.

    Reply
  • TRM April 23, 2013, 12:53 pm

    Yo MMM – good news, think the message is getting through – after adjusting for population growth, the number of miles driven has dropped almost 9% since 2005.
    http://advisorperspectives.com/dshort/updates/DOT-Miles-Driven.php -or-
    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-04-23/why-americans-are-driving-less-each-year#r=rss

    Think we need some better infrastucture to help encourage the trend to continue. Not necessarily public transit options, but at least better roads (ie wider shoulders, bike lanes, etc), and continuing to expand the ‘bike highway’ initiative:
    http://www.onearth.org/blog/rolling-out-new-routes-in-americas-bicycle-highway-system

    TRM

    Reply
  • Francisco Noriega April 23, 2013, 1:00 pm

    I agree, and I personally am a car-less biking/car commuting person, by choice.

    However, given your analogy of how much of an asshole you are by using cars due to their inneficiency, what about the super light motorcycles like scooters? Some of them are even over 120 MPG, and only weight about 200 pounds, which I reckon is the least weight you could have to in a vehicle meant last, go “fast” and to carry another 150-200 pounds.

    What would you think if everybody used scooters instead of cars? In my case I have to admit that what affects me the most about not having the car is that many times I just don’t go out because I feel like the time it takes to go /return in bike is too much.

    Between work, exercising and cooking there is very little precious time left, I guess for people with kids it’s way even less, so in my mind a little efficient vehicle like that would be acceptable, just because of the time you get back.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 23, 2013, 4:25 pm

      Scooters and motorbikes (if EPA-certified with catalytic converters) are great. If I ever had to commute, I’d use one of those for sure. In fact, I did sometimes back when I had a motorbike and lived 8 miles from work and wanted a clown-like break from biking :-)

      As for your point about life being busy between “work, exercising, and cooking”. Hmmm.. I wonder if there is any possible way to _combine_ your work transportation and your exercise?

      Reply
      • Catherine April 23, 2013, 5:48 pm

        I don’t want this to sound like an excuse – thought I know it does – but I’m just curious about your thoughts on people who typically get their exercise by exercising their pets? I would love to bike to work, and I’m really trying to get myself to do it (I’ve got all the gear and everything, just not the motivation at 5:30 in the morning). But I usually use the extra time I gain from driving by taking my two dogs out for really long walks/runs.

        I know this seems silly, but I feel guilty if I’m getting exercise while my dogs are just sitting at home. And I don’t know if I have the energy, or time, to bike to/from work and then come home AND run the dogs until they are tired.

        Any other pet owners feel this way? What has been your solution?

        Reply
        • Judith April 24, 2013, 6:44 pm

          I have a medium sized dog that needs exercise every day. When I feel short of time I exercise him while biking. Our 50 minute walking route is done in about 20 minutes. If this was new to the dogs, you would have to work up to that. We are fortunate that much of the route is on a path system, and most of it is dirt/gravel. Only a short amount is asphalt…. and likely harder on his older joints. I often try to go as slow as I can, but then he is ahead of me and I have to speed up. He stays in shape in the winter months because I cross country ski with him, and also have studded tires, so I can bike in the winter too.

          Start by getting them used to the commands you will need when they are off leash. when you are walking with them, tell them to “stop at the corner” well before the corner/intersection, and then make sure you stop and make them sit… etc.

          Its all in the training, and also being a bit of a scofflaw if the bylaws say dogs must be on a leash!

          Never bike with a dog on a leash. I won’t get into that story!

          Reply
      • Francisco Noriega May 3, 2013, 2:44 pm

        That’s what I do, I bike/jog to work most of the times (it’s only a 2 mile distance, so when I jog I actually take a detour that makes it 4 miles :P ) and make that x2 since it is both ways, but even then that is not excercise for me (computer programmer), so I also like to do body weights and calisthenics.. but that takes me about another 40 minutes off my day

        Reply
    • Emmers April 28, 2013, 11:21 am

      In-between solutions are still solutions! Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

      Reply
  • Matt April 23, 2013, 1:23 pm

    MMM,

    For some reason the home page is displaying the number of comments incorrectly for this blog. It says 28 but I notice the article has 184 or so.

    Reply
    • AJ April 23, 2013, 2:21 pm

      This is an issue with caching; probably part of the performance tweaking. If you hit Ctrl-F5 to force a refresh it will update. I get it on the home page and all article pages.

      Reply
  • J April 23, 2013, 2:40 pm

    I currently have a 4 mile rule- anything less than that I use the bike (and trailer, if needed). What do you think about electric bikes?

    Reply
  • Zora April 23, 2013, 3:11 pm

    Dang, lotsa complainypants on this blog. You could compile quite the list of excuses from this thread.

    In particular it seems to be a widely-held belief that biking can’t be accomplished on actual, normal streets as opposed to dedicated bike paths and bike lanes. People don’t know the actual rules of the road and no one ever tries to tell them, so they develop an incorrect understanding…. “that street over there has bike lanes, so bikes can go on it. This street doesn’t have bike lanes, so that means the bikes shouldn’t be here.”

    Reply
  • Nick April 23, 2013, 4:25 pm

    Great post!

    Thanks to mmm, on my 29th birthday last October, I got my old huffy mountain bike tuned up and started riding to and from work (only 3 miles each way).

    I have a somewhat related question–

    My fiance isn’t completely convinced of biking everywhere, although we have taken a couple trips together to the grocery store (and it was actually fun!).

    I have a 2000 buick century (worth about $2000) and she has a 2011 subaru forrester (worth … 15k?). We have agreed to be a “one car family” when we get married.

    She won’t give up her forrester. I admit it’s a great car/small suv to haul things…What should I do with the buick? I bought it with cash 5 years ago, it’s still going strong with some minor issues. I was thinking of keeping it, but that seems like overkill… do I pay insurance on 2 cars?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 23, 2013, 9:42 pm

      Still worthwhile to sell the Buick and put the money to use elsewhere. Too bad about that Subaru, though – that is a lot of money to have tied up in a depreciating liability, unless you’re already millionaires and have no use for more money! ;-)

      Reply
  • Nelbie April 23, 2013, 5:10 pm

    My son just purchased a fantastically cheap $1300 Honda Accord 5 speed perfect condition, higher mileage vehicle for his commute to work (22) miles. The man we purchased the car from is moving and had a horse stable full of stuff to sell and trash, we uncovered 3 brand new mountain bikes, all needing various things, tire, brakes, seat, he gave them to us for FREE !! We have already assembled 2 of them completely and another part is on order for the 3rd. Things like that make me so happy ! P.S. I ( for profit ) am helping him sell various other items online ( clist ) as well as another vehicle sold today. Great cheap car, free bikes, and income from stuff I enjoy doing. Win Win Win

    Reply
  • Wrecked April 23, 2013, 7:21 pm

    Those of you that bike to work, how do you keep fresh? Do you shower and change at work?

    Reply
    • Nick April 23, 2013, 10:04 pm

      I’m lucky enough to work in a hospital with a gym in the basement. I nicely fold (roll) my dress clothes and put them in a backpack, wear that on my bike, then shower and change before work.

      Reply
    • Clint April 24, 2013, 6:16 am

      I pack clothes (fairly casual) and put it in a backpack along with antiperspirant and lunch. And I keep a pack of baby wipes and a hand towel in a drawer at work. If I was on top of it, I’d bring in a few ironed shirts on a day I’m not riding, but it always slips my mind.

      Reply
    • Marcia April 24, 2013, 8:43 pm

      I have a shower at work but don’t use it. When I used to ride, I rode 10 miles in about 45 min to 50 min. In the early morning, it’s cool, so I don’t work up very much of a sweat, especially when you factor in the stop signs and stop lights. I just wipe myself off with a towel.

      Reply
  • PerpetualAsianStudent April 23, 2013, 10:04 pm

    It’s funny that you mention Petaluma, because I actually live quite close to there. Which means that if California wasn’t so dang expensive, Mr. Money Mustache himself might have been in the same county as me. I’ve officially picked up a mountain bike from craigslist, actually 2 of them for $150 and I’m planning on fixing one of them up and potentially selling it for about $150-200 since that’s what it is worth. The other bike that I will keep, I’ve already fixed up and is worth about $100-$150 dollars. So I think I just scored there. I just got accepted to the local university, which is a mere 3 miles away. So guess who has no excuses for riding the bike to school :)

    Reply
  • C April 23, 2013, 10:20 pm

    For everyone saying that many places are un-bikeable…bikeable cities/communities don’t just appear overnight on their own. 20 years ago, SF was nowhere NEAR as bikeable as it is today, for example. It happens because people who want to be able to bike get together and agitate for awareness, bike lanes, bike paths, etc. While it’s true that some people live too rurally for much biking to be practical, there are plenty of places that COULD be very bike friendly if there was interest/effort. Rather than say you just can’t bike in your area, how about writing your city council about how much you would love a bike lane, or getting together with some friends to organize a group bike ride to raise driver awareness that cyclists even exist (safety in numbers, after all).

    Reply
  • Mr. Bonner April 24, 2013, 12:16 am

    Timely article for me. My 9 year old Corolla clown car needs an utterly ridiculous repair right now (it’s been amazingly reliable until this recent issue), so in the past week I’ve just about tallied 250 miles on the good ole bike. Great training for the half-ironman coming up in less than 2 weeks! Even when the car is repaired I’ll continue riding my 40 mile round trip commute at least a couple days a week. Every day is a bit much for me.

    Hopefully, we’ll be able to move closer to my work in a few years, but prices in La Jolla (near San Diego) are absurd, but we should at least be able to drop the commute at least 25% by moving a bit closer.

    Reply
  • Sam April 24, 2013, 12:36 am

    No offense, but I’ve noticed that your articles have become increasingly condescending over time. I’m all for taking some liberties to make stories interesting, but it appears to me that this blog is heading in a negative direction. Really, the focus appears to be shifting from ‘how to get ahead’ into ‘stupid shit i think others are doing’. Both styles have no issue delivering the intended message, but one is sure to aggravate at least some who read. Others appear to agree. Please consider this. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Clint April 24, 2013, 6:24 am

      You call it condescending, but it’s really more poking fun and it’s been going on since MMM started. Sometimes the pokes sting (for me, anyway) but I think more people respond positively to the humor thrown in with the challenge. Notice: more than 200 comments to this post with few complaining about the tone.

      Reply
  • KP April 24, 2013, 9:22 am

    Love the blog. It’s given me lots to think about – and improve on!! Throwing this out for opinions…. What is the *MINIMUM* commute that you would *ALLOW*(?) a car commute over a bike commute? Assumptions are that you are not able to move to a closer location, or part of your job involves commuting.

    Reply
  • R5 April 24, 2013, 10:21 am

    With all this pro bike as an everyday transport option posting how can there not be extensive discussion of the cargo bike?

    If you are serious about the approach this is a proper aspirational good. Kids, 300 pounds of stuff, whatever, …

    Check out the photo I just put up in the forum, which for reasons unclear to me came in upside down and may require panning. Nevertheless there it is.

    Reply

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