Bike Commuting in Houston: Why I do it

By on Jan 4, 2010 in Bike to Work, Blog | 5 comments

In the spirit of TEI’s support of all means of transportation, I’m biking to work and living to blog about it (and getting lots of stares in the elevator thanks to the bike and accompanying attire). It’s a 16-mile trip from my home in Eastwood to the office in Sharpstown. And how’s this for an anticlimax: I’ve already started, and I’ve done it 4 or 5 times. So I can say confidently and enthusiastically that bike commuting in Houston is not only possible, it can be thoroughly enjoyable.

Here’s how I see it: I ought to be getting more exercise as it is. The exercise experts (exerperts?) tell us that we should be doing cardio exercise (jogging, bike riding, that sort of stuff) for at least 30 minutes a day nearly every day of the week. I’m currently getting a whopping 0 hours of it every week/month/(arbitrary time period). That’d be bad enough if I were just a normal living, breathing human being, but I’m also a human being who foolishly signed up for this year’s MS150 – the popular 150+ mile two-day bike ride from Houston to Austin. I like maps, so here’s a useful one:

View Ian Bike Ride in a larger map

Those two little pushpins sitting over Houston are my home and my office. That one in Austin is, well, in Austin. The crucial take away is that the one in Austin is a lot farther from either one in Houston than the ones in Houston are from each other. So, getting between those pushpins in Houston better be a cakewalk before I try to get to that one in Austin. (Not shown on map: the trip from Houston to Austin is neither flat nor downhill.)

Now, I could do what I imagine many exercising Houstonians do: load into the car, drive to the gym, and hop on the stationary bike. But that seems redundant and inefficient. It takes me 5-10 minutes just to get to and away from the gym, and then there’s the 30 minute routine itself. That’s upwards of 45 minutes for the gym experience. I also have to drive to and from work: 25 minutes one way, 50 for the day. So commute + gym = 105 minutes every theoretical day I go to the gym, with 50 minutes of wasted commute time.

The alternative: combine commute and exercise into a single bike commute. For me, that doesn’t necessarily work into a time savings because of the relatively long distance I have to ride (I do get more exercise though, which I’ll appreciate on my way to Austin). But for lots of other people, there are definitely some potential time savings. If your theoretical daily gym/commute time is similar to my 105 minutes, then you could very possibly save time if you work less than 9 miles away and can maintain a modest 10 mph pace. Nine miles can get you from Bellaire to Downtown. . .or from the Heights to the Medical Center. There are a lot of people making those trips every day; what if they hopped on a bike just once a week?