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Houston Attorney Thrives on Doing The Impossible – Daily

Some of Houston’s cool and under-appreciated bike infrastructure.

In this extremely wealthy country of ours, the chief barrier to wealth is often the information, or misinformation that gets stuck inside our own heads.

People with the right knowledge can develop the right habits, and these habits lead them to accumulate wealth very quickly. Meanwhile, the majority of people pick up incorrect financial ideas and bad habits, leading to permanent debt. But they mingle mostly with their own type, so the failure habits keep spreading.

Sometimes, to break out of the Herd Mediocrity Mindset, you just need to see an example to learn what is possible.

So with that in mind, let’s review an example of yet another allegedly completely impossible thing, that an MMM reader is doing every day.

Jeremy Stone, aka The Rock, engages in a rare – and yet incredibly profitable – activity, in a city that is legendary (in the public mind, anyway) for making this activity completely impossible.

The following tale is drawn from our past year of occasional email conversations.

The Lawyer Who Actually Bikes to Work.
Year-Round. In Houston.

Dear Mr. Money Mustache,

“I’m a lawyer and commute to downtown Houston every day regardless of weather (unless I need to drive somewhere for work), without a handy shower or any special amenities, so it can definitely be done.

I was skeptical too, but my wife pushed me to do it after we got into your blog about 4 years ago, and it’s been one of the best decisions we’ve made.  If anyone complains that they can’t do it because of heat, humidity, needing to dress in a suit, etc, I’m proof that you can do it.”

The Challenge:

Throughout the history of this blog, Houston has become the poster child of Bike Excusitis Disease – the place most often cited as “The Reason I Can’t Bike to Work”.

Houston commuting, as perceived by car drivers (image credit: Politico)

Raised on the slippery black teat of the Almighty Oil Well, Houston was developed for motor vehicles and the metro area now sprawls across ten thousand square miles (6.4 million acres), which means Houston alone is one fifth the size of the country of England. Ironically, the more you optimize a city for cars, the bigger your traffic jams, so Houston has the worst traffic in the US.

And it’s a subtropical steam bath: daily highs exceed 80F / 27C for a full nine months of the year with high humidity year-round.

On top of that, Mr. Stone is a high-ranking official in a law firm, the profession most often cited as one where you can’t bike to work. Lawyers need to wear suits at work, see clients, impress judges, and this calls for the utmost in personal hygeine – scrubbed skin, shaved beards, polished shoes and manicured nails, premium brands and styled haircuts. It’s a hassle, but it is a necessary selling of the soul, in exchange for a six or seven figure income. Right?

With those painful complaints out of the way, we might as well move on to actually solving our problem.

“At first, I thought it was a crazy idea. It wasn’t, and I loved it.

I started commuting on an old but good Trek mountain bike (got stolen), then to a $50 hybrid that was a piece of crap, then upgraded to a fancy Surly Disc Trucker.

Most of this route is nice and easy, because it is mostly on a hike/bike trail. Over the last few years, Houston has been changing old railroad lines into these trails.”

The Route: 

Sunrise in Downtown Houston, as seen from the bike route.

Bike commuting can be superior to driving in every city, but only when you design a route that works for riding your bike. When you drive a car, you will usually end up on the fastest, widest, (and most dangerous) roads, never even realizing that there were parallel bike-friendly options nearby.

“My route takes me through a neighborhood called River Oaks, where the very richest Houstonians have lived for decades.”

Early in our conversation, Mr. Stone shared a map of his bike route with me, and I compared it to Google’s suggested route for driving a car downtown. The distance is about the same, but in a car you end up on the interstate highway, which makes the commute seem completely un-bikeable.

Fig.1: Google Maps view of car vs. bike routes to work. Bikes are surprisingly fast, plus immune to traffic jams and you get free parking.

Key Strategy Note: this ride was made much easier by the fact that Stone lives within 4 miles of work. This didn’t happen by accident: he chose his home and his work strategically to avoid a car clown commute.

Yet interestingly enough, houses in his neighborhood are still only in the $300,000s. If homes so close in are so affordable, why is anyone commuting into downtown Houston in a car?

There is no answer aside from sheer foolishness – those highways will soon be empty after this article gets out.

“My route takes me along the trail along Silver St. in an old Warehouse district, now an artsy district. Then along White Oak Bayou (Houston is built on bayous, not rivers!) as you near downtown, and under an old 150 year old bridge that has been built over. 

Some of these bridges serve as homes for the thousands and thousands of bats here. You can’t see them, but I took this picture at about 6 or 630 am, and there were bats flying all around. The bridge is so low you get to ride right through them!

Biking beats driving – exercise, fun, no traffic, bats, tombs, turtles, snakes, herons!”

The Speed: 

The deceptive thing about bikes is that within a city, your average speed ends up equal to, or even faster than, a car. In big cities, cars average only about 27 MPH even without traffic, and rush hour can cut this speed in half again. Meanwhile, a slow beach cruiser coasts at about 12MPH (the speed Google uses for biking estimates), a fit cyclist rolls at 20, and an electric bike can easily sustain 28 MPH with almost no effort from your legs at all.

So when I’m in a rush to get somewhere in town, I never reach for the car keys – there’s no time to waste puttering around in a gas-powered wheelchair.

The Cars (and other Financial Effects):

Most people in Mr. Stone’s position have huge houses in the wealthy enclaves of Houston, and drive very high-end cars to work. If there is a spouse and family in the picture, they have multiple cars. And yet somehow, the Stone family survives with just one 2006 Honda CRV (market value about $6000), which remains in great condition because it leads such an easy life.

Driven lightly, the total cost of ownership of a car like this is about $2000 per year. Meanwhile, the typical attorney power couple might keep an up-to-date Mercedes SUV and a BMW 5-series. Driven at the US average level of 13,000 miles per year, this fleet would vaporize about $24,000 per year of personal wealth.

Wow, we need to put that shit into a box so more people will see it:

Average family driving
with two typical lawyer-level cars
destroys about $250,000 of your wealth
every single decade.

Still think biking to work is only for poor people? Do you consider an 11-year-old vehicle beneath your standards?

When you are not dependent on cars, you no longer derive your identity from them, which means you can start thinking about them like the appliances they really are. This makes your car costs drop drastically.

But What if I Move Jobs?

Coincidentally, halfway through our conversation, Stone ended up switching employers and acquiring an even better position.

I imagine that the same sharp mind and optimistic can-do attitude that encouraged him to bike to work, were the things that helped him earn this upgrade. But the new office was in a different part of town, further from home.

Did The Rock head straight to the car dealership to purchase a new Chevrolet Suburban like everyone else in Houston? No, of course, he just busted out the map and the brainpower again.

But What About the Heat?

“Until the new job, my office did not have any shower facilities. But I found it was not really a problem: I just keep my clean dress clothes at work, and change out of my cycling clothes once I get to the office. 

Also, making the trip before sunrise (especially in the summer) gives me much cooler temperatures. The ride home can be hot and sunny, but there is always a cool shower and air conditioning waiting for me when I arrive.”

Rock is right. I too biked to school and work throughout my career, in temperatures ranging from 0F to 105F. Long-time readers already know that bike transportation is probably the biggest factor that accelerated, and continues to fuel, my own family’s early retirement.

Some of my workplaces had showers, and others didn’t – but I never even felt the need to use them. In extreme heat I’d just just put on a clean, dry shirt and maybe a fresh layer of speed stick, and settle in to my office to enjoy the air conditioning. Any trace of perspiration or heat was gone within about five minutes.

This is because physical activity, including riding your bike, is normal, not the exception. It’s not a medical procedure or a competition or something you do in an indoor “spinning” class. It’s not an emergency condition which causes your body to shoot feces from every pore, destroying any nearby pieces of clothing and requiring a long, hot shower every time you move so much as a fingertip.

It’s just what happens every day.  So The Rock and I will see you on the streets tomorrow morning – it’s always Bike to Work Day.

Related Reading on the magic of a Cooperative Spouse:

Is Mr. Money Mustache Ruining Your Marriage – Part 2


Is Mr. Money Mustache Ruining Your Marriage? – Part 1

Epilogue

On the day that I finally got around to publishing this post, Jeremy and his lovely wife happened to be visiting my part of Colorado for a wedding and some hiking. So we invited them over for dinner and we had a great time together. I also gave him one of the secret stash of MMM t-shirts that arrived at my place today:

 

  • SMM June 9, 2017, 3:04 pm

    When I worked in DC, I would use capital bikeshare in the spring and summer. I’d start at union station and bike to the Treasury building near mcpherson square where I worked. It was about a 10 minute bike ride and nice morning workout. I didn’t do it in the afternoons because there is so much more traffic, pedestrians and crazy bus drivers :-)…..no offense to any bus drivers.

    Reply
  • Cory June 9, 2017, 3:36 pm

    Awesome article! I have taken a ton of great ideas and significantly improved the overall happiness of my life by reading your blog, but by far the biggest thing I have taken is the motivation to bike everyday to work. It’s just a nice way to start and end the day! It’s also a conversation starter with clients when I roll in to a meeting in slacks and bike shoes :).

    A note: I had NO excuse to not be doing this prior to reading the blog, because it turns out that biking takes almost exactly the same time as driving for me! No funny math required, just a watch! The shorter distance (thank you pedestrian bridge!) plus the ability to legally run red lights and stop signs (Idaho stop law baby!) means that I can usually beat my car driving coworkers to anywhere in Boise proper!

    Extra savings: Turns out if you bike to the airport, not only do you get rockstar parking right by the terminal, but you don’t have to pay to keep you “vehicle” there. More savings!

    Reply
    • SarahA June 28, 2017, 6:59 pm

      OMG biking to the airport. Gonna do it!

      Reply
  • Carrie La Seur June 9, 2017, 4:06 pm

    I’m a lawyer who bike commutes a similar distance year-round in Billings, Montana, where snow and ice cover the streets for months. I use a mountain bike and swap out a hybrid with studded tires in extra-icy conditions while wearing my ski helmet and goggles. People in full-size 4WDs stare at me like I’m insane. I respectfully submit that I’m a much bigger badass than this guy.

    Reply
  • Some Poor Millennial June 9, 2017, 5:28 pm

    I want to ride a bike to work so bad. Not just to work, but everywhere. I’m tired of my car. I’m tired of the insurance payments, the hassle, all the baggage associated with owning a vehicle is so cumbersome — I’m just over it.

    But my drive to work is a forty mile one-way drive, and I currently live with my parents because I can’t afford to live in the town that I work in.
    What’s worse, is even if I tried to get a job closer to my home, there’s literally no bike routes into our city from where I live.
    We live in the outskirts of our town, and where we live there are no bike lanes, side walks, anything to ride into town except for a two-lane street with no shoulder and sloped dirt/gravel to ride on.

    I just don’t know what to do. I really don’t expect MMM to respond, but I’m definitely in need of some suggestions because I’m going nowhere fast and it scares me.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 10, 2017, 10:02 am

      Keep searching for job and living situations – if I were stuck in that situation it would be my primary activity in life until it was fixed.

      Reply
  • Rory June 9, 2017, 5:56 pm

    Ok, I’m ready to give up the clown car. But I’ll need some help from the audience in addressing my complainy-pants problems:

    Good news: recently moved to within 3.4 miles of work.

    Bad news: Single dad. Daughter 14 (high school) & 4.

    Good news: High schooler can walk to/from school.

    Problem #1: The 4 year old goes to daycare year around. On a busy, 3 lane road. There are those ‘over the road bridges,’ that I can use to cross the road, and I could be super careful in the parking lot and on the sidewalks. But on a rainy day or a super cold day, especially, I worry about having my 4 year old sitting in the elements on the 2 miles to daycare, outside, getting wet/cold. I”d be moving and getting my heart-rate up, at least. She’d be cold. And I’d get the ‘abusive dad’ looks from the other moms at daycare.

    Problem #2: random volleyball games for my daughter, sleep overs, etc. If I had no car at all, short of uber, how do I get there, how does she get there?

    Reply
    • César Marques June 12, 2017, 1:27 am

      2 miles is not that long.
      It seems that you’re focusing on the problem, not in the solution. I’m sure that there are some good weather days too, no? Set a simple goal, do it every week, choose the good days. Try it. About the look of the other parents… think that some will be giving you the looks but, inside, they will be jealous :)
      A 4yo can do 2 miles easily on his own. Start practicing at weekends. One step at a time.

      Reply
      • Rory June 13, 2017, 3:44 am

        The issue is that doing it on the good days doesn’t really save any money. I still pay car insurance. My car still depreciates in value. To really get the benefit I need to get rid of the vehicle.

        And FWIW I already do bike to work on good days.

        My main question is whether I’m making excuses on rainy days with the kid in the back, or whether I get a pass to own a car because I’ve got a young kid. If it were just me, or just and and the 14 year old, I’m certain the car would be gone.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache June 13, 2017, 8:20 am

          Good news Rory, the math is much better than that: your car depreciates per MILE driven, much more than per month owned. With less driving you will wear out fewer parts, and on average you can keep an older car, which also reduces passive depreciation. And of course there is the gasoline savings.

          For example, I bought a 1999 Honda minivan six years ago, and have barely had to do anything other than oil changes since then – zero major problems and zero trips to a mechanic or dealer.

          Secondly, the REAL benefit is the health increase from cycling. It’s an enormous financial windfall as well, although it is hard to measure the exact value of increased productivity and income, and foregone hospital bills in your future.

          Reply
    • TomTrottier June 21, 2017, 8:12 pm

      Bike trailers do come with rain covers for the rainy days – and are useful for groceries too. But a little rain or snow can be exciting for her. As we say in Canada, dress for the weather.

      For the 14yo, get her a bike too. Bike with her regularly to show her the road rules. Most early teenagers enjoy the freedom to visit friends or just mess around. There’s more peer pressure as time goes on, so start now!

      Reply
  • Peter June 9, 2017, 9:35 pm

    Great article! I live in Houston and was inspired by The Rock to bike to work for the first time today. I have been biking recreationally for a while, but never to work. Took Uber instead, which cost me about the same as parking downtown. The heat and having to change clothes were my excuses. This morning coming in, I biked in shorts and changed into work pants that I brought in my laptop bag. Yes I broke a sweat, but the ridiculously cold A/C in the office cooled me down in 5 mins. We are a consulting firm but went to a business-casual attire a few months ago. I still did get a few looks on the elevator in my shorts. I don’t care, it was an awesome way to start the day! I use bike share, so was concerned if there would be available bikes at the station near the office on the way back. That was no problem either, I guess not many people know how easy it is to commute on a bike in Houston. That might be changing soon, as word gets out :)

    Looking forward to seeing y’all on my morning commute along the Buffalo Bayou!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 10, 2017, 8:04 am

      Awesome Peter!

      Reply
    • Jeremy Stone June 15, 2017, 9:11 am

      Nice! Yeah, it’s weird at first, but you get used to it and then don’t want to go back. And, yes, the AC in Houston buildings is ridiculously cold for the most part. Helps to cool down, but then you’re freezing the rest of the day.

      Reply
  • Edifi June 9, 2017, 10:00 pm

    Dude, I’m surprised I’ve never seen you out there! 4-5 years ago I was commuting to downtown. Then, for the last 3 years, I’ve been doing montrose-galleria via river oaks.

    Reply
  • Adam June 10, 2017, 9:47 am

    I’m all for biking in Houston and do it whenever possible. Unfortunately we can’t make it work from our house as there’s only very major roads to my employer. I’m not complaining, we’ve made our current choice to live where we live (and will be trying to move closer in 2018 for some of these reasons).

    I’m also impressed by what looks like some bravery hitting some of those areas by bike. Houston is notoriously dangerous to bikers on main roads and the rider is hitting some very busy ones.

    I do want to just make the caveat to readers that all the areas within the 610 loop our attorney lives cost at least $500-600k to buy a house or $350-400k for a townhome. That’s about minimum. These aren’t average cost living areas.

    Reply
    • JB June 16, 2017, 10:29 am

      He is biking down a few streets with a bike lane and down the new bike path into downtown. A good route, but many can’t take the route. I use the similar route coming from Garden Oaks if I wake up in time.

      Reply
  • TFS June 10, 2017, 10:13 am

    Year round bike commuter in Vancouver, Canada for past 20 years, which has contributed to my being FI and ready for ER. I work in a building with near perfect bike facilities…secure bike parking, lockers,showers and free fluffy white towels. Vancouver is bike friendly has a temperate climate year round (yes it rains a lot !) and it’s roads are increasingly clogged with clown cars. However…even on the best summer day we have about 20 cyclists and the rest of the staff fighting over the 450 parking spots !! Despite our best efforts we cannot seem to get anymore people to see the light…so to read about The Rock pulling this off in less than ideal circumstances is inspiring !

    Reply
  • Georgy Porgy June 10, 2017, 11:12 am

    Hi guys, this is my first comment here. I’ve been reading the blog on and off for quite some time but this post (and the previous ones) triggered so much I wanted to share because cars/bikes/evs is something that really impacts lifestyle/health/savings.
    I used to think, that I am really savvy on car cost savings. I drive used (but cool )cars with virtually no depreciation at the same time that colleagues lease BMW SUVs and have holes in their pockets the size of a couple thousand euros monthly.
    MMMs post with his yearly expenses led me to look at my car expenses over the last year. I used to guestimate my family driving 2 cars to work/school etc would cost a couple thousand euros per year. Turns out it’s 6000. Wow. I only drive 2 miles to work (biking is only 1,5 miles) so I knew I don’t spend THAT much on gas (or depreciation), but just the taxes/insurance/tires will get me over 1250 per car! Add the not so odd repair costs and gas turns out to be only a small slice of the pie.
    The funny thing is I had headed over to motortrend.com earlier today to check some exotic car reviews and saw that the car tehy had named best car value overall was the Jeep Wrangler. Say whaaaaa??? Fun? Sure, but value no way.
    MMMs post about his EV had gotten me thinking, whether I should also jump on the bandwagon. I like the idea of turning my back on big oil, but expence-wise it just isn’t worth it financially in my situation. Not in a long shot.
    Needless to say, I’ve been taking the bike to work lately.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 10, 2017, 12:39 pm

      Yeah, there are smart and dumb ways to do the car thing, but in general we are talking about a gas-powered racing wheelchair. It’s just a fundamentally bad thing for most of what we them for in this country.

      Here’s a particularly stunning example: I was recently taking a virtual Google Maps tour of the tiny island/nation/US Territory of Guam, out in the Pacific near the Phillipines. The ENTIRE ISLAND is only 30 miles long, and most of that is undeveloped tropical vegetation.

      The main, coastal town of Tamuning is about 1 mile x 4 miles, so really there should only be a few motor vehicles on the whole island, for construction and farming, right?

      But the place is SWARMED, FLOODED, BURIED, DESTROYED by cars and pickup trucks. Everywhere, piled up on roadsides and parking lots. It’s a total waste of paradise. And you know with 100% certainty, that virtually all of those cars are used entirely for bullshit purposes, because the whole island is within reach of a 5-cent-recharge of an electric bike.

      Reply
    • Mike MPLS June 11, 2017, 9:14 am

      Georgy, what would you use the ebike for? I find I rarely use my ebike and am considering selling it since i enjoy peddling everywhere in my flat midwestern city.

      I bought the ebike for “just in case” situations, like days of significant snow, but I use it so little I’d be better off $ wise getting an uber, taking the bus, or using my wifes car for those situations. We have tons of bike commuters here and when I’m passing people on an ebike I feel like a wimp. Minnesota state law speed limit on ebikes is 20MPH, so they don’t save me more than a few seconds unless I’m hauling cargo. Cost it out and ask yourself if adding one more fancy gadget is simplifying your life.

      Reply
      • Georgy Porgy June 11, 2017, 6:35 pm

        No you misunderstood me. I was looking into electric vehicles such as cars, not bikes. I sometimes even just walk to work. I can manage the ride to work on a traditional bike. The ride home is uphill and gets me all sweaty, but it’s definitely a good way to get my mind off of work. The problem is where I live during winter there’s almost never any light during off hours. The first (and last time) I took my super efficient route home I realised, it was super scary. I promised myself I wouldn’t do it again in the dark. It’s like the perfect ambush site for at least 1 mile of the 1,5 mile route. Pitch black, not a soul in sight at night (the few people in the streets are in their clown car on another route) and they won’t discover your body until the next morning. Even if you don’t get ambushed and just have an accident, unless you’re in a position to call an ambulance yourself, you’re in tough luck. And don’t tell me this never happens, I’m the doctor that tries to get busted heads brains back in one piece. I have seen things… inside out.

        Reply
        • Mike MPLS June 11, 2017, 8:51 pm

          For the bike ride, all you can do is light up like a christmas tree on the bike. I have obnoxiously bright tail and head lights.

          If you commute 4 miles per day total by car, I think you are way below average on environmental impact, so good for you. Most of my colleagues drive 50 miles per day and I have one colleague who drives 112 miles per day because he likes living on a lake in the middle of nowhere. A 100 mile round trip commute in the US is not uncommon.

          How much would a daily uber or ride-share be? 6 euro each way, 6 x 2 x 5days x 46 weeks = 2760

          Reply
          • Georgy Porgy June 12, 2017, 2:53 pm

            We don’t have uber over here, I gotta take a cab for 8 Euros which I round up. But apparently this is such a small place that in brief discussions with taxi drivers I found out they were quick to profile my transportation habits and could even comment on those of friends and colleagues. I thought that was really creepy and decided to try and avoid them.
            Today I walked home enjoying a fantastic sky just before sunset and a nice breeze. I came across exactly 9 people in 1,5 mile, having passed along a couple of hundred houses and wondering why people stay indoors in this rare heavenly weather. Perhaps they’re watching some travel infomercials on TV.

            Reply
  • Mike MPLS June 10, 2017, 2:07 pm

    If you work in the suburbs, a bike/bus combo might be a possibility. I have a similar bike commute (4.5 miles) to downtown then i hop on the express bus to my works campus in the suburbs. I sold my 2005 accord today after 6 months and 1 winter of bike/bus combo commute in Minneapolis.

    My transportation costs have gone from $4800 per year to $1000, which includes use of wageworks pre-tax purchasing of transit. I recommend bike/bus combo if you work in the suburbs but want to live the good walkable city life.

    Reply
  • joy June 10, 2017, 4:42 pm

    This was the push I needed. Made my 6.5 mile commute to work in BIKE today. Felt great

    Reply
    • Jeremy Stone June 15, 2017, 9:13 am

      Sweet!

      Reply
  • Dan June 10, 2017, 9:11 pm

    Does anyone have a suggestion for an alternative bike? I saw some ellipticals and lay down “bikes”. I just hate the bike seat…

    Reply
    • Georgy Porgy June 11, 2017, 6:39 pm

      Yeah, try telling that to the guy that tried to ride home after having his bike seat stolen.

      Reply
  • Bryan June 11, 2017, 12:22 am

    I like to buy older cars that are near the end of their life and squeak out the last few hundred miles on them, and then part them out for a little profit. I really like driving cars and while I do ride my bicycle quite a bit, I’m just not up to dealing with rain and snow. Maybe one day I’ll get to part out a leaf or tesla.

    Reply
  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance June 11, 2017, 3:44 pm

    I live in DC, and we have a lot of people biking to work every day. We have a shower room at work, which makes it easier for people to shower and change after they bike. I take the Metro to work and have never biked in the city.

    But after reading your post and seeing how a lawyer can do it, I realized if we really want something, we will make it happen no matter what. Biking definitely saves more money than driving. It’s also better for our health and the environment.

    Reply
  • Ruth June 11, 2017, 4:17 pm

    I, too, ride to work in Houston!! I giggled when this post showed up in my inbox. I have a longer route, but more luxurious amenities at the office. A hot shower, hair dryer, and ironing board at the local gym (membership paid by my company!) makes me quite happy after my 14 mile ride in. I wish I could say I do it every day… I chicken out during morning thunderstorms. My cycling clothes don’t dry properly – I need a solution for that!! Thanks MMM for the inspiring article!

    Reply
    • JB July 3, 2017, 11:34 am

      Just have two sets of cycling clothes at the gym or your work…

      Reply
  • KatherineH. June 11, 2017, 8:59 pm

    OK. I’m inspired. But I need some advice. I live in south Louisiana where it is hot and humid about 80 % of the year (although this spring/summer has been delightfully mild!). I normally take the bus to campus (for free! I’m a grad student) but I’d like to start biking a few times a week. Here’s my problem: I’m afraid of the drivers here and the only routes from my apt. to campus require me to ride several miles on either: 1) a 4 lane road with large shoulders where the speed limit is 55 mph or 2) a narrow two-lane road with no shoulder, quite windy, and speed limit is 45 mph. I’ve tried routing through neighborhoods, but all the subdivisions connect back to one of these main roads instead of connecting to each other. Would it be safer to take the bigger, faster road with a wide shoulder (about the width of a lane of traffic) and ride on the shoulder OR ride on the narrow, curvy road in the midst of traffic? Or continue to take the bus?

    Reply
    • Jeremy Stone June 15, 2017, 9:19 am

      I might choose the wide shoulder. But a free bus ride is pretty nice, too. Maybe keep the free bus ride but work in fun bike rides at other times and do it where you feel safe.

      Reply
  • Bob June 12, 2017, 2:47 am

    Any suggestions for those living in developing countries?

    I cycle in one of the richest cities on the continent, but with a lack of infrastructure or rule of law. You know the one’s where there are no cycling paths, drivers are aggressive including many instances of buses, trucks and taxis riding over cyclists (won’t bore you with the minutae, it is a weekly occurance), general lack of driving law or enforcement, and even the pedestrian pathways have a lot of holes due to uncovered manhole covers (stolen), the contractors just don’t care, and every homeowner is responsible for their own and as such just covers their pavement with rocks and plants.

    In spite of the above, I cycle a lot to work but it is as a fellow user of the roads. Scary, but it’s a great feeling to be outside.

    It just sounds so awesome when people talk about cycling lanes or rivers, wish we could get people to obey basic road rules more here.

    Reply
  • Kim June 12, 2017, 4:26 am

    I live in Shanghai, and bike sharing programs here are really popular. Check out Mobike. I wish it’s in every major city! For less than a dollar, I ride a bike using a scanner, park it, and use lots of other bikes in other neighborhoods.

    Kim

    Reply
  • Schumann June 12, 2017, 6:27 am

    I really appreciate this article! I moved to Houston (south east near NASA) right after college and found the summer months unbelievable with the heat and humidity. Not wanting to get a second car after my wife joined me, and started working down here I got a cheap Wal-Mart bike and started riding in June. I’ve gone though a few bikes and crashes but I wouldn’t change it for anything! my wife eventually joined me in billing to work and after some fiddling with my route we can both bike together most of the way!

    Reply
  • Laurie June 12, 2017, 10:10 am

    I’m inspired. I have a whole list of why nots, like I live in them middle of the Appalachian mountains and have crazy steep hills to climb, but I might as well try it. We can adapt to pretty much anything, including hills, right?

    Reply
  • Brian June 12, 2017, 10:17 am

    I’m a big wimp, as I don’t really ride in the Tempe summers. I justify my car driving as I work from home, so we still barely drive at all (less than one tank of gas a month)…but I just don’t get on my bike to get groceries after late May.

    Oh well. Facepunch?

    Reply
  • Walter June 12, 2017, 2:31 pm

    I’m all about biking and I don’t want to sound like a complainy-pants, but… when I lived in Miami I honestly did not feel safe riding a bike to work because of the drivers. We rode our bikes to the bars in our neighborhood, but to get to work I had to go through downtown and I couldn’t find any trails to avoid it. The drivers there are SO AGGRESSIVE! They complain that bikers shouldn’t be allowed on the roads. I didn’t even feel safe when I was in a car. I was blown away at how common hit and run incidents with bikers were when I was there. A colleague of mine even got mowed down by a car while he was in the bike lane!

    So, I don’t mean to be a contrarian, but I really think there are certain places with valid reasons not to commute by bike.

    The obvious response to this is “… then don’t live there…”, which is what I tell everyone who is thinking of moving to Miami, or Florida in general :-)

    Reply
  • Joe June 12, 2017, 6:12 pm

    Excellent article. The mental shift and even the title really sums up the whole blog.

    Reply
  • Mike Reiche June 12, 2017, 7:59 pm

    So moving from Texas to Colorado has been amazing for my bike commuting. I biked to work about 50% of the time for the past 6 years, Texas sucks for that, although a 4 mile ride is much better than a 8 mile ride there. Props to him for being so close to work there. Here in good old Colorado I have an 8 mile commute that is just about fantastic. I never sweat on my ebike, although today I went “old school” and biked with my 100% manual labor bike… it was not so pretty as far as sweating is concerned! I’m not sure who stops sweating after 5 mins, I was sweating after my shower for 30 mins!
    Also, NEVER trust Google maps to create the most efficient bike route. Whenever I am looking for the best route I first apply the “walking” filter. That usually gets close to the best route, the bike one is trying to keep you on bike paths and things. From the “walk” route I zoom in on the Satellite view to see if I can spot better short cuts and such. I was able to take off 1. 5 miles from my current commute in Broomfield by doing that. Going from 9.5 miles to 8 was a pretty big commuting relief… Although occasionally I will take longer routes for the fun of it!
    So when is the next Longmont meet up? Too popular now to host events in your hometown?

    Reply
    • Rob June 15, 2017, 1:27 pm

      Try using the Strava Global Heat Map to scout ride routes that you are unfamiliar with. I moved to Baton Rouge a for a short period and it helped me to find a safe, bike-to-work route in a very very bicycle unfriendly town.

      Reply
  • Bob H June 12, 2017, 10:45 pm

    Well you turned me into a biker about 4 years ago and I now bike to the club about 5 days a week. We are in Colorado now and after a nice longs peak hike tomorrow will be staying in Longmont. Maybe we will see you around.

    Reply
  • Shaun June 12, 2017, 10:50 pm

    Super-pumped first time commenter here – just rode my bike to work and back for the first time. I live in northern Alberta (Grande Prairie), huge truck town where most people only park their trucks in the driveway because the garage is too full of there other two vehicles and toys! I’m not much better as I have a gas guzzler (paid for mind you) in my driveway. I’ve been reading this blog for the last year and it wasn’t until I read this last blog post in conjunction with a talk with a fellow colleague that bikes (not to work of course!)that I said to hell with it, I’m doing this!! And I did it, and I didn’t die!!! Seriously though, it took me only 1/2 an hour each way when driving takes me 15 minutes, and I was able to skip my morning cardio.
    Thanks MMM, so glad I stumbled upon your blog. I’ve consciously implemented several ideas of yours, including saving a much higher rate of take home pay in the hopes (not jus a hope) of early retirement.
    Chears and keep up the great work!

    Reply
    • Shaun June 13, 2017, 10:45 am

      1st post and I spell Cheers wrong….

      Reply
  • Aaron Howell June 13, 2017, 2:53 am

    “Bike commuting can be superior to driving in every city, but only when you design a route that works for riding your bike.”
    Spot on. I avoided riding a bike in Shanghai for the first of my 5 years there…just because I didn’t have a route. I learned that you have to get out on the first weekend that you live in a city and map it out. I do that every time I move cities now and it makes me feel connected to the surroundings right away.

    This lawyer is a bad ass btw.

    Reply
  • James June 13, 2017, 12:04 pm

    I used to live in semi-suburban East Tennessee. Not quite as hot as Houston, but still plenty of heat and humidity. And hills.
    Long story short: 12 miles to work per direction (the closest possible home was perhaps 8 miles from work), if taking a dangerous highway for 6 miles. 18 miles if I toke a detour. Solution/compromise: I drove 6 miles and biked 6 miles. When commuting home, driving felt like a superb luxury (it truly is a couch on wheels!).

    That said, a couple of bad-asses did bike on that busy highway, but I simply did not have that level of badassity.

    My take on it:
    -The heat around 7AM is definitely easier to handle than the 8:30AM heat.
    -A shower is nice. But if in a hurry or if no shower is available, a bit of hand-soap, a hand-cloth and a small towel in the restroom would do the job (basically, I would take a sponge-bath in a toilet cabinet). My co-workers confirmed that I did not smell funny.
    -I would leave a few dress shirts and pants at work.

    I now live in the Boston area:
    1- Biking is by far the fastest option to commute. By a wide margin.
    2- Lots of bike lanes and lots of other bikers. It feels reasonably safe.
    3- Dooring and drivers turning right are real threats.
    4- Bikesharing is great, if you use it before all the bikes are gone. It’s a good option if you want to go to a venue with alcohol and might not want to bike back home. Or if just don’t want to risk having your bike stolen.
    5- There are a few days a year when snow makes biking too dangerous to my taste. Say 10 days per year. (Studded tires might have brought that number down to 5). Otherwise, I just need a good rain jacket and rainpants.

    Reply
  • Nate K June 13, 2017, 6:31 pm

    I love reading these comments and seeing the very polarized views from absolutely Mustachian to absolutely complainy-pants. Some people can find reasons to not do something regardless of the conditions. I recently started biking to work on Oahu and was amazed at how many people said that the weather wouldn’t be conducive. It’s HAWAII!!! Tourists come from around the world to enjoy this weather, how is it not perfect for biking?!

    Reply
  • SED June 13, 2017, 7:31 pm

    I have enjoyed reading this post and the comments, although I’m clearly an outlier in this community – I don’t bike! I absolutely could bike, but I just don’t enjoy it enough to want to use it as a primary mode of transportation. I did it years ago as a student, and it was a chore for me; something done out of necessity and not pleasure. I prefer the comfort and convenience of our car. It’s 10 years old, has 120K miles on it, and is nothing fancy, and yet, thanks to MMM – ironically! – I realize how wonderfully luxurious it really is. My spouse and I both work from home, so the car is mostly used to run errands and for out of town travel.

    There are a number of other non-Mustachian choices we make. (Using a dryer and running the heck out of our A/C to name two more.) We make them consciously, accepting the trade offs, because of personal preference. To me that is what this journey is about – each of us figuring out what works best given our own personalities and circumstances.

    Thanks to the FI community, we have managed to optimize our lifestyle is numerous other ways over the past 4 years. As a result, we became mortgage and debt free two months ago. I will retire from my unsatisfying job in two more months! So non-bikers take heart! :)

    Reply
  • FrugalConsultant June 14, 2017, 3:56 am

    I’m a longtime reader and a great fan of everything Mustachian but to be honest I’m a little sick and tired of the vilification of the car-user. Yes, it’s the low hanging fruit. Yes, it’s easy to mock people in SUV’s and Jeeps standing idle in the freeway. And of course I mock the people around me who say they can’t possibly move a baby around without an enormous motor vehicle lugging all there belongings along with them.

    But I happen to be a petrol-head for as long as I can remember and driving around in my car gives me enormous joy.
    That being said, I walk/bike pretty much everywhere that’s not work related.
    If it’s work related, that’s another story, I’m the owner of a small consulting firm and our clients are all over the country. We do high level management consultancy and unfortunately arriving drenched in sweat is not yet an option (and quite frankly I don’t really want to bike that far anyway). I love the time I spend in my car singing along to my favourite tunes or listening to podcasts.

    The reason I can do this and still do this is because I usually carpool with one of my employees and because, as mentioned above, I’m a car-nut. I even bought a *gasp* new BMW 5 series even though my old car was still perfectly fine.
    Yes yes, face punch worthy maybe. But I don’t pay a dime for my cars (with the exception of taxes that I have to pay for the privilege of using a company car) since they’re all officially property of my company (even though I’m the sole owner). All my employees have company cars as well by the way.

    I still keep my savings level well above 70% (this year even 85% thanks to a very profitable year) so I don’t see the point in taking away something I love just to save a little bit of extra money.

    That for me is the most important part of being Mustachian, I save a lot of money so I can do what I deem important to do. Be it driving around in an SUV a pricey Tesla or walking barefoot for 30 miles every day.

    I could say something along the lines of, oh, when I stop working I will stop driving etc. But that’s simply not true. I really do love driving. And as long as I can afford it, I’ll continue to do so.

    Reply
  • Cara June 14, 2017, 5:58 am

    I live in Ft. Lauderdale and am terrified to bike. First, I was never a bike rider, so I’m not so confident. Second, it;s scary enough driving here with the way people conduct themselves in cars. People don;t seem to use turn signals, make turns from the wrong lanes, run stoplights, and generally drive like they’re the only ones on the road. We became so concerned with safety that we bought (old) Volvos despite the crappy gas mileage. With all the canals here, it’s difficult on a bike to avoid main roads.

    So, it’s not the heat that deters us(we live w/o AC), it’s the danger. There are a lot of people from the Caribbean and other foreign lands who just have very different driving styles that we find dangerous (I grew up in Jamaica where driving is crazy).
    I’d be interested in finding out if others have similar concerns elsewhere.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 17, 2017, 9:46 am

      Yes, EVERYBODY has exactly those concerns in EVERY US city. They are all unfounded – there is always a way to make a car-free lifestyle work.

      If the car drivers are bad, why would you want to be out there in the mix with them, fighting it out? Bikes have a choice of routes.

      But as a beginning rider, take it easy on yourself. Use bright flashing lights, front and back, at all times. And take a bike safety class.

      Reply
    • Liesbet June 25, 2017, 4:13 pm

      After being away from civilization for eight years (living, working and traveling on our sailboat in the Caribbean and Pacific), we returned to the US and were flabbergasted by the driving “etiquette”. That was two years ago and still, each day we are on the road (which we try to avoid as much as possible), I am extremely frustrated and affected by the way people drive – turning signals are optional and you are right, everyone thinks they are the only one on the road. People feel so entitled these days (and not just on the road). And, about this topic… I have noticed this selfishness and deterioration of good driving behavior on the East Coast as well as on the West Coast and even in Belgium and other European countries. This “la la la” behavior, also called ignorance and obliviousness, is taking over the world, unfortunately. :-(

      Reply
  • Kelly Monaghan June 14, 2017, 8:38 am

    This article about cycle commutes from today’s Guardian (UK) should be of interest to those following this discussion:
    https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/jun/14/cycle-heaven-hell-commuters-share-bike-rides

    Reply
  • Freddy N June 14, 2017, 9:14 am

    Thanks for this great article. I am also a Houston cyclist commuter, commuting every day to my oil engineer job, no less, and it’s wonderful! I live about 3 miles from work and with the public bikes scattered around the city, there really is no need for a car, or even my own bike. There are some safety considerations since Houston drivers can be aggressive, but I avoid that mostly by commuting during off-hours and on residential streets. It’s actually very pleasant to see another side of the city and bike through the nice houses. Great article!

    Reply
  • Matt June 14, 2017, 10:48 am

    I’ve been reading this blog for about a year and have become really inspired to start my own bike commute. Starting end of this month I’m moving to San Diego and have been wondering where I should find an apartment for bike-ability. My office will be in rancho bernardo (North of San Diego city by about 20 miles). I really want to live in the city or possibly on the coast but now I feel I am sacrificing my dream to bike to work, all to live in a “cool” neighborhood. My next thought is to possibly drive halfway with the bike and then ride out the latter half. Are there any documented cases of mustachians doing this strategy? Or does this sound like a worst of both worlds scenario?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 17, 2017, 9:43 am

      I’d say that choice of location would be a waste – if you already know where your job will be, pick a place within an easy bike ride of there (5-7 miles). The novelty of a “cool” neighborhood wears off, but the time lost to commuting is FOREVER.

      Reply
  • Eliza June 15, 2017, 9:15 pm

    So glad you brought up cycling! When my workplace moved from right next to the central train station to just outside the city centre I started commuting by bike. On rainy days it was actually quicker to ride the 8km than drive and I got a free shower which work didn’t provide. But my goodness the first month was tough! I live in a hilly city in the subtropics and if I didn’t feel like my husband was making me do it, I don’t know if I would have pushed through. Thankfully it got easier.

    But for the first year of our babies life, we stopped biking anywhere since we couldn’t legally transport her. Just wondering what do other Mustachians do when their kiddies are little?

    Reply
  • MKE June 16, 2017, 2:49 pm

    The comments stray far off the path of personal finance. Two recent articles I read, but did not keep links for, stated that the typical American family spends 25% of pretax income on transportation (cars, duh). This holds true regardless of income level. A household making $50,000 per year spends $12,000 or so on cars. A household making $200,000 per year spends $50,000 on cars. MMM’s estimates of “lawyer-level” car costs are low, perhaps intentionally. Cars suck. They ruin your health, stink and noise up the neighborhood, and destroy your finances. Besides that, cars kill lots of people directly – about 40,000 Americans per year, or added up since their invention, more than all the wars in US history combined. And people give up 25% of their pretax income for that?

    Reply
  • MKE June 16, 2017, 2:55 pm

    I have read previously that cars average about 17 mph (door to door time) in a metro area. Also, the American Automobile Association says the typical car (think Toyota Camry) averages 62 cents per mile to operate. So on an hourly basis, cars cost about ten dollars an hour to operate. When they are not stinking up the world, they just sit in the way looking ugly (parking lots, garages, streets). Ten dollars per hour just to turn the key.

    Reply
  • Ran June 17, 2017, 1:20 am

    Great post. I live in Haifa, Israel, where the climate is probably much like Houston (very hot+very humid). Plus Haifa is probably the steepest city mentioned here – my 16km roundtrip commute includes a 500m climb! (the city is built up on a mountain…)
    Also, zero bike infrastructure, and the infamous middle-eastern drivers who really don’t expect and don’t care about bikers.
    Still, I managed to bike (non-electric!) twice a week for a whole summer – most of the climb is only on the way back, so reaching the office was quick and not so sweaty, and back home I had a shower waiting for me. I got into a really really good biking shape! I rode mostly sidewalks in order not to die, it’s not exactly legal here but they are mostly clear of walkers where I rode, and nobody seems to care as long as you’re polite)
    The main reason I stopped was having my first child which required be to be home earlier and less exhausted. Now I take the bus to work, (we have shuttles from work taking us directly from home, and also the public bus system is decent since my office is right next to a central bus station – good urban planning!) the car *always* stays at home. It should be mentioned moving closer (and flatter!) to work was also a possibility, but it makes my wife’s work much further away so it’s not really an option for me.

    Reply
  • PF June 17, 2017, 8:15 am

    I live in Austin, about 180 miles from our Houston lawyer in the article. My 18 yr old son has been cycling to the gym using route of designated bike lanes. So far, so good. Except that almost everyday he was yelled at to get off the road or get on the sidewalk. I made a post in our local neighbourhood group asking that everybody just everyone please respect this young man and his right to cycle safely in a bike lane. OMG. Did I unleash a deluge! Mostly helpful but unbelievably some neighbours actually telling me not to let my son cycle. The local councilman got involved telling us about upcoming road improvements that he has had to fight residents to get through. Honestly Texas, my son does not need a metal barrier between him and the cars on the 40mph road, he just needs a better attitude. He’s off to Amsterdam for college, I suspect his stories of cycling in Austin will shock his future collegemates.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 17, 2017, 9:16 am

      Wow, that sounds like an insane car culture – and we think of Austin as the civilized part of Texas!

      I have had drivers yell at me about 10 times in 30 years of cycling. And in most of those cases I was able to chase them down at the next light/stop sign and have a personal word with them through the driver’s window, to discourage future heckling.

      Reply
    • Tim June 19, 2017, 7:56 am

      Austin is the “civilized” part of Texas? I’m from Dallas and I take (good natured) offense!

      Reply
  • Yves June 17, 2017, 8:51 am

    This really is a fantastic article and is quite inspiring.
    Thank you!!

    Reply
  • FIRECracker June 17, 2017, 7:04 pm

    Wow, kudos to Jeremy! When there’s a will, there is a way. And sometimes necessity breeds creativity. For example, several years ago, while I was still working, there was a massive transit strike. The subway I relied on to get to work wasn’t running and it would take me a good 1 hour and 20 mins to get to there by walking. I briefly thought about biking but knowning how many bike accidents (my sister in law was in one and had to be hospitalized) happen on a daily basis, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk to my safety. But since I literally had no choice, I HAD to find another way to get to work. Turns out the 1 hour and 20 min walk wasn’t actually that bad. And I found a very interesting walking route through various neighbourhoods, which made the walk pretty interesting.

    From then on, I saved several hundred bucks a year by walking to work instead of taking the subway and lost a ton of weight. What was an inconvenience turned out to be a great opportunity! For my wallet AND for my waist.

    There’s always a choice. You can choose to throw your hands up and make excuses or become more badass as a result of it. Glad Jeremy choose the latter.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 18, 2017, 3:50 pm

      Great solution Firecracker! Walking is great for you.

      Although, just to be a devil’s advocate here: if you look up accident reports from around the world, walking is statistically MORE dangerous than biking, on a per-mile basis.

      In both cases, it’s actually CARS that are causing the danger, but they tend to hit pedestrians at a slightly higher rate than cyclists.

      (although they are both still ridiculously safe for non-drunk people who are paying attention to where they are going)

      I always suggest making safety decisions based on statistics rather than anecdotes, so despite the alarming story of your in-law, I always advise others NOT to make bike decisions based on selected scary story. Especially if that ends up leading to choosing a car, which is much more dangerous when you take into account overall health effects:

      https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/06/13/bicycling-the-safest-form-of-transportation/

      Reply
      • FIRECracker June 18, 2017, 10:22 pm

        That is a good point, MMM. Though, in my case clumsiness tends to skew the statistics against me. I tend to be more of a liability on a bike than other people :P

        But for other people, yes, the statistics probably hold true.

        Reply
  • Gabriella June 19, 2017, 12:58 pm

    Wow, this really puts things into perspective for you. Very motivating, it just goes to show that putting in the initial effort to research how you can be more efficient and effective in your day-to-day life can go a long way!

    Reply
  • AR June 20, 2017, 7:52 am

    So, does anyone live in big, unsafe cities and try this? I would like to bike to work (about 5 miles), but I live in Memphis, which is fairly well known for it’s murder rates. Just the other day a 2 year old was shot in the face and killed near my house because two people got in an argument on the road. I love the money saving and healthy aspects of biking to work, but as a woman, I just don’t know if I feel safe doing so.

    Any tips from other “unsafe city” bikers?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Renard June 20, 2017, 1:03 pm

      I lived in San Antonio for about 6 years and bike commuted about 4.5 miles to work. My route took me through some sketchy areas, but I mostly went to work around 6 am and came back around 3-4pm. The thing I noticed is the hoodies and punks aren’t real early risers. It was always cool to ride in the morning and see the town start to wake up. Never felt unsafe despite going through and to ‘high crime’ areas of town. Try it with a friend a couple of times if you aren’t sure. I’ll bet you are surprised.

      Reply
  • Joe B June 20, 2017, 9:09 am

    Any suggestions on an affordable ebike kit? I ride a Cannondale Quick XL hybrid for my commute. I’ve been looking at a kit from Dilenger Electric Bikes for about $600. Thanks!
    https://dillengerelectricbikes.com/electric-bike-kits/best-sellers/street-legal-electric-bike-kit-samsung-power-13ah-by-dillenger.html

    Reply
  • TomTrottier June 21, 2017, 8:03 pm

    lotsa comments here, let me add 3 more:
    1) VoltBike has some nice looking inexpensive eBikes, esp for Canadians.
    2) For a long-lived lithium battery, keep the charge between 20-80%. For Lead acid, keep it as charged as you can.
    3) Handicapped washrooms are the most convenient for a sponge bath.

    Reply
  • TomTrottier June 21, 2017, 8:05 pm

    Reply
  • Jackie Christianson June 23, 2017, 11:43 am

    Some good listening on the subject of reducing commuter traffic. This radio cast from one of our local NPR stations is about self-driving cars and how it could greatly reduce or all but eliminate problems related to road congestion and unnecessary driving, but it made me think of this blog post.

    http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2016/04/15/almost-self-driving-car-technology

    Reply
  • Liesbet June 25, 2017, 4:04 pm

    A very inspiring article! I hope it reaches millions of people who actually will take your advice and start biking to work. The roads have become crazily dangerous places. The thing to bear in mind, though, is that cars are not used to bikes yet in the US, which can also create dangerous situations. Growing up and living in Belgium, I always grabbed my bike to get somewhere, especially when in a hurry (otherwise, there was also the option to go on foot). So much quicker than grabbing keys for the car, walk to where it is parked and so on. I never owned a car back then, but I assume those are the steps a driver has to go through. :-)

    On a recent visit back in Belgium, I still use the bike to go shopping and my American husband just loves the “novel” idea to grabbing the bike for everything. That being said, when visiting family and friends further away, I needed to drive my parents’ car, because he was worried he would kill 10 bikers along the way. See, American drivers do not have the habit to look over their right shoulder when making a right turn. Oh, and the cars are manual as well. :-)

    Reply

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