Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tevas On My Drops (a tale of alternative transportation)

It's 7am, I'm riding past fields of irrigated alfalfa. An occasional sprinkler splashes out into the road and I swerve to avoid it, looking first to make sure no one is behind me. It's a cool 48 degrees, the sky is still sleepy with early morning clouds.

A great morning to be out for a bike ride with McDreamy. But this is no regular ride training ride. No, this time I have a khaki skirt on over top of my bike shorts. My hair is freshly washed and brushed under my helmet. And my Teva sandals are hanging by velcro from my drops (the curved part of my handlebars).

I'm on my way to work. But today instead of hopping in my car and driving the 16 miles from home to my office, I'm exploring options for alternative transportation.

Missoula's public transit system is called the Mountain Line, and the farthest-reaching stop is about 3 miles east of my house. So McDreamy and I are on our way to the bus stop. I have plans to ride McDreamy home this afternoon (I typically do a 16 mile ride after work several days a week, so might as well kill two birds with one stone and make driving home and working out one and the same event).

The bus pulls up to the stop at 7:10, I load McDreamy on the front rack, swipe my ride-for-free pass that I get from the County, and take a seat on a cushioned bench in the front. The ride takes about 35 minutes, or about 15 minutes longer than it would take for me to drive on my own. But I watch the scenery go by, and enjoy people-watching as more folks get on closer to town.

At 7:45 the bus pulls into the central station, I unload McDreamy, and we walk across the street to my office. I fluff up my helmet hair, slip off my bike shorts, swap out my sneakers for the sandals, grab a cup of coffee, and sit down to start work by 8:00.

I did a little number-crunching and realized that if I can bike/bus to work two days a week, I'll save about $8 in fuel. Over the course of a year, that's >$400 saved. Five days a week aren't really realistic-- I often have night meetings or need to do grocery shopping or socializing in town that require a car-- but two to three days a week is a reasonable goal. With the savings I could buy:
a bike computer
bike shoes and clip pedals
a portable radio so I can listen to NPR on the bus
lots of americanos
etc, etc

So while $400 in savings isn't that much, given my current wish-list, there are other benefits, too:
1. I save wear-and-tear on my car
2. I get a little bit of wake-me-up exercise first thing in the morning
3. I save fossil fuels and thus do my little part to make less of a footprint
4. I get to explore new adventures in wardrobing:)

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