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Bike-and-Ride

Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip for July, 2004

I've been telling you for years about the benefits of biking. Taking it a step further, let me tell you about ways to have those advantages—getting outdoor aerobic exercise, the endorphin rush, saving on car expenses, using fewer of the earth's precious resources—even when distance and time constraints make a complete journey by bike impractical. I call it "bike-and-ride."

At age 17, I lived with my parents in the far northeast corner of the Bronx and had a job at Columbia, on Manhattan's Upper West Side. I could either walk along a very unpleasant eight-lane highway or take a bus for 20 minutes (walking was more direct so it took the same time) to a very slow local subway, and then change trains several times, zig-zagging my way south-northwest-southwest-north, or I could ride my bike 20 minutes along a scenic parkway to the express, and get to work with only one change of trains. So if the weather was decent, I'd ride my venerable three-speed and lock it up all day at the better train station. It cut out 15 or 20 minutes in each direction and it was a lot nicer.

Fast-forward 30 years. I now live at the base of a mountain, four miles from the bus line—but I still combine biking and riding whenever I can. One recent Sunday, for instance, one of my children was performing nine miles away, I had a meeting immediately following the concert halfway back to my house, and then we'd planned a fun activity in a different town for the evening. So, rather than taking two cars, I biked to the concert and then biked to my meeting. Dina swung by for me on her way to the evening activity, we threw the bike on the back of our station wagon (we have a bike rack that fits over the tailgate), and off we went. If I'd been in more of a hurry, I could have put the bike on the car to the concert and ridden only the few miles to my meeting—but this was more fun.

These days, many rapid transit systems allow you to take your bike. Maybe not on a crowded train at rush hour, but off-hours are usually not a problem. And a lot of buses even have bike racks. This provides a great deal of flexibility. Say you live three miles from the train station. Instead of competing for a parking space, you pedal over, bring your bike on board, and then have far more mobility when you get to town. In urban settings, bikes are often actually faster than driving, and they're always faster than walking. With a small backpack, you can do five or ten errands in an hour, easily.

Another idea: we stayed in Denmark with a family about 20 miles outside Copenhagen. The father kept one bike at home to ride to the train, and another downtown, which he used to go between the central train station and his office. Then he didn't have to get anyone angry by trying to squeeze his bike onto a train at peak commuting time.

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