Posted by: jdantos | December 2, 2011

The Reliability of Bike Commuting

One of the things I like the most about commuting by bike is that I know, no matter what is happening in the world, that I’ll be able to make it to work or home safe and sound within just about 15 minutes. I can rely on pretty much the same ride, each and every day – making it easier to plan and live the rest of my life.

Want proof? Since I got a smartphone in March, I’ve been hitting “start” and “stop” on an app called RunMeter every time I’ve ridden my bike now for almost 9 months. This has given me a record of how long I ride, my speed, and even a Google map for every ride – over 2,600 miles. While it’s fun to look back at a long weekend ride, every time I ride directly from home to work (or vice versa), I also tell the app that I’m on my “commute.”

Here’s how long my 3.1-mile commute has taken over the past 9 months:

Commuting by bike through downtown Washington over the last 9 months has been pretty darn reliable.

The crazy thing is, this is everything – the whole range of wacky stuff everyone can encounter on their commutes:

  • Weather from the frosty mornings in March to the 100-degree days of July
  • Rain, sun, clouds, ice, even earthquakes
  • Days when I was hauling 20 pounds of groceries, and when I wasn’t
  • Mornings I was in a rush and stressed, and times I wanted to go slow and smell the roses
  • Construction, double-parked cars, traffic lights out
  • Alternate routes, mechanical problems

All of that unpredictability is in the chart above. Only a couple times did it take more like 20 minutes to get home. I still don’t have a winter in there yet, but that’ll come over the next few months.

I’d only logged 230 one-way commutes because most of my evening rides have taken me to farmer’s markets, errands, or plain joyrides – trips I didn’t tell my phone were strictly “commutes.”

So, all told, I can go between home and work in between 12 and 15 minutes like 80% of the time. Rain, sun? 12-15 minutes. Downtown a mess because of an earthquake or a Christmas Tree lighting? 12-15 minutes. Thunderstorms? 12-15 minutes. When I wake up in the morning, the traffic reports of inner loops and Nutley streets and whatnot is totally irrelevant to me. I read the weather forecast for how I might dress that day, but that’s about it. I can count on getting to work so consistently that I don’t really think about traffic at all.

Bicycling makes it pretty darn reliable to get to and from work – making it a lot easier to focus on all the rest of the more important things in life.



  1. I observe the same with my commute! Always within a 5-minute window.

  2. I’ve noticed the same thing. I know just how long the bike part of my commute will take. Not necessarily so true of the MARC part of the commute. Thanks for mentioning the app. Might give it a try.

  3. […] are a couple of more interesting ways of slicing the data on my last 9 months of […]

  4. […] or long.  I sometimes get cold toes in the winter or sweaty in the summer, but since it only lasts 12-15 minutes, I can pretty much grin and bear it, as long as it’s not icy or […]

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