Driving to work shortens your life, seriously people it’s crazy. Multiple studies have found significant impacts to your physical health related to car commuting. The American Journal of Preventative Medicine, linked longer commutes with poor cardiovascular and metabolic health (think heart disease and diabetes). People with long commutes were more likely to be overweight and have high blood pressure, partly due to their decreased physical activity.
I ride my bike to work as often as I can, I live 3.5 miles from a light rail station and that makes the commute pretty easy. Here is what happened on a recent day when I had a meeting too far away to bike or take the light rail and was stuck commuting in my car:
It was raining and for some reason, people in Seattle forget how to drive in the rain. I was leaving a good size following distance because I would like to avoid an accident. We were in stop and go traffic on a spot where it is always stop and go, every morning, same spot for about 3 miles of freeway. Anyway, I see the car 2 cars behind me flash their brights. I thought, that’s odd. Anyway, I keep up my safe driving and rocking out to my tunes and then the car behind me moves over a lane to exit and I see the light flasher person behind me. She is screaming and gesturing at me. What the heck? If I speed up and close the following distance I will have to put on my brakes again in like 5 seconds because everyone up there is stopped. I do what I almost never do and I flipped her the bird, because really, she was being obnoxious. She pulls into the carpool lane (alone in her vehicle I would like to point out) and then pulls back in to my lane in front of me, she flips me the bird-Awesome! She then promptly has to put on her brakes and stop because we are still in stop and go traffic. This was a great example of the stress driving adds to your life. Now this lady probably has some other issues and generally people in Seattle are not that aggressive (Bellevue is a different story, but more on that another day). My point is, what tole is that driving taking on your life? What are you giving up to spend your time in a line of cars crawling along the freeway? What opportunities would you have if you either found another way to commute or you worked towards financial freedom and stopped having to commute at all?
Besides the stress reduction of biking versus driving, I love getting my exercise built in to my day so when I get home I am 100% available to my family. Do I get all sweaty biking to work? Well, yeah, a bit, but I bring my work clothes separately in my backpack. The real key to making this commute possible is the electric wheel and battery add on I have. There are a lot of hills in Seattle and the motor gives me just the little extra umph I need to do the hills and not end up drenched in sweat and gasping for air. Don’t think that the motor means I ride along lazily not pedaling, it is still hard work. I use the motor only when I need it, and on the way home when I don’t care how sweaty I get-I try not to use the motor at all. Seattle has some precipitation on average about 135 days per year, but those statistics look at how many days get even the smallest amount of rain. Often there are a few showers but it doesn’t rain all day every day, so with fenders and a good rain jacket, it is bikable on a light rain day. In the last couple years I have been able to bike 1/2 of spring, all of summer and quite a bit of the early fall and then intermittently in the winter when it is mild. There is a big difference in my mood and stress level when I bike versus when I drive.
I would bike to work even if it didn’t save me any money. As a bonus for me though, it does save me money. The national millage reimbursement rate is $0.535 cents per mile, which factors in gas and wear and tear on your car. My commute is 30 miles round trip each day. Based on that millage rate, I am saving $16.05 per day by biking. If I do this 3 days a week for a month, I save $192.60. If I can bike just for 4 months out of the year I save $770.40. I should also mention that there is the cost of the light rail, which my employer pays for. This would cost the average person $1.50 to $3.00 per day, which would decrease the savings amount.
The time on the light rail has been amazing for my productivity. I listen to blog posts on real estate investing, finance, business, etc. There are also real estate deals to look for, emails to catch up on, favorite blogs to read, and eBooks. If all that fails, I sleep-because I LOVE sleeping, only came close to missing my stop once. I get to do all that after I got in my morning workout biking to the light rail station-it is amazing! Because I get all that done while commuting, I don’t have to spend my evening catching up, I spend it with my husband and kids. I encourage you to explore alternative commuting options, not everyone lives in a location that is as convenient as I do, but what options do you have ? Can you bike to the store when you just need a loaf of bread instead of driving your 5,000 pound vehicle and fighting other cars for the best parking space at the grocery store? Can you and your kids bike to soccer practice instead of driving and get a bonus workout on the way? Try it, your mental and physical health is important and you just might find you love it like I do.