More Xtreme Commuting

Roanoker Bob Egbert has a longer commute than most: The 56-year-old Navy veteran gets started at 6 a.m. every day. But the trip has its compensations: He’s never stuck in traffic, never spends a dime on gas, and stays in fantastic condition. He walks to work — a nine-mile trip every day.

As Roanoke Times writer John Cramer notes:

Egbert … is among a growing legion of Americans who walk or bicycle to work to fight pollution, improve their health and save money. It’s part of a nationwide movement away from sprawl and toward more pedestrian-friendly communities, according to Complete the Streets, a nonprofit coalition that promotes bicycle-friendly and walkable neighborhoods.

In recent years, Roanoke has started creating bicycle paths, greenways and traffic-calming measures. Recent opinion polls found that 52 percent of Americans want to bicycle more and 55 percent would prefer to drive less and walk more, according to the National Center for Bicycling and Walking.

Egbert, a member of the Sierra Club who predicts an “oil storm” within the next decade, says he is rebelling against America’s “car culture.”

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14 responses to “More Xtreme Commuting”

  1. //Recent opinion polls found that 52 percent of Americans want to bicycle more and 55 percent would prefer to drive less and walk more, according to the National Center for Bicycling and Walking.//

    In other news, most Americans lie when asked about health related stuff in polls.

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    COD, I don’t think people are “lying” when they say they’d “prefer” to walk and bike more. Heck, I would love to walk and bike more. Why don’t I? Well, I’m stuck in my habits. It’s one thing to “prefer,” another thing to “do.”

    What the survey doesn’t do is ask how intensely Americans feel about that desire. How do they rank that preference compared to, say, having a shorter commute? Or having a nicer, newer car? Or having lower taxes. The question really doesn’t tell you much.

  3. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I have a close friend who bicycles from Annandale to USDA every day, I think it is 14 miles on the bike paths. He has done it for over 30 years.

    USDA has shower facilities at work, and he backpacks his suit.

    On the other hand, I woked a mile from my office and drove every day. I needed the car during the day for work, and the mile I had to travel was deadly.

    I suppose I could have bought another car and left it at work, but it never occurred to me.

    What we would like, and what is good, and what is practical. and what is possible are all different things.

    I’d like to have sex more, and work on the tractor less.

  4. Charles Avatar

    I like riding my bike to work, but rarely do so, because my wife worries about the trip.

    And while I live only 3 miles from work, some of that is on roads that are in fact dangerous for a bike.

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m not sure folks truly want more bike/ped but rather see those things in terms of supporting transit (for others) or that it would be nice to lose a few pounds.

    Parents won’t let their kids use bike/ped to go to school anymore.

    They actually will drive their kids to school .. right past the school buses…

    ..or even parents who have their kids ride school buses.. will pick them up in cars if they are not dropped off in front of the house.

    For themselves.. it seems many more folks would prefer to drive to a gym to run on a treadmill (and pay money for the privledge) rather than find a two-mile bike/ped route to do the same for free.

    And many do not want bike/ped trails near their homes – for fear that “strangers” will lurk nearby.

    The folks you read about – the ones who walk or ride everyday – are making a statement.

    They are saying that they do know what is good for them and that despite significant impediments that they are going to prevail.

    These are the same folks who show up, often by themselves, at hearings to advocate for more bike/ped trails… probably about the same time that 50 folks have driven to local gyms to pay to use treadmills…

    It’s not all bad. I think more and more people are starting to see and understand that change won’t come unless they themselves get involved not only in using bike/ed but advocating for it also.

    KUDOs to those stalwarts.. who actually put their money where their mouth is… more of us should emulate them.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    It would be interesting to find out how much money is diverted from the transportation systems the majority wants — roads, public transit — to pay for bike paths and special bike lanes that carry about 0.0001 percent of the traffic passenger miles and 0.00 percent of the commercial traffic. I thought the capital of LaLa Land was on the left coast but the blogosphere is spreading it rapidly. I just love coming upon a slowly snaking line of 20 cars following one happy bike rider down a winding, narrow road. The gas wasted in the trailing vehicles wipes out by a factor of 20 the gas he saves.

  7. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Anonymous 6:35 raises a good point. I don’t believe in dumping millions of dollars willy nilly into construction of bike and jogging paths. Bike paths should be subject to the same Return on Investment analysis as other transportation alternatives: roads, rail, buses, whatever.

    The difference is that communities can make themselves more bike and pedestrian friendly through better urban design at very little cost.

  8. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Anonymous, Jim, and Larry all make excellent points.

    As long as we live in fear of kid snatchers and lurkers it is going to be difficult to break our current habits, although high gas prices will help. Even if they don’t drive the kids to school, they will drive them to the bus stop and wait (with the engine running for the AC or heat).

    It seems there is a lot more to it than just making the trails available. If you go to Mexico or Dominican Republic you find the Americans holed up in their protected resorts because they think it is too dangerous to roam outside, yet the kids routinely ride their horses or burros to school. Where did we go wrong? What changed?

    Anonymous is right about bike trails and the lack therof, but so is Jim: if we don’t go crazy we can do quite a bit for not too much, eventually.

    When I suggested that Fauquier start planning bike trails in response to swarms of weekend cyclists visiting the country side, I was rudely rebuffed. “Bikes don’t spend any money here.” “We can’t make trails without widening the roads, cutting tress and moving fences. It costs too much.” etc.

    Maybe the first thing we need to do for functional settlement is to worry less and fight less: learn to accept a little of what we don’t like in exchange for a little of what we do. It won’t be perfect, but its better than a strategic stalemate.

  9. Anton Traversa Avatar
    Anton Traversa

    Jim Said:The difference is that communities can make themselves more bike and pedestrian friendly through better urban design at very little cost.

    Hear, hear! Honestly, the problem is not that we don’t have dedicated bicycle paths, which I think is a sort of stupid waste of money in most instances (parks do not fall into that category), but that the regular roads we do use are perilous for people who would like to bike and walk. Moreover, as Anonymous 6:35 so aptly pointed out, the extremists who insist on bicycling in places that are obviously unsuitable cause more traffic, idle time, and thus bad mileage for their gas.

    I know this is not true: adding a bunch of new, dedicated paths in places where most normal, sane people (even the ones who like to ride their bicycle) would most certainly not prefer to ride is worse than folly. The question is about building pedestrian-friendly communities, which are inherently more amenable to biking/walking/scootering etc. I’d love to see the day when Virginia becomes a “new urbanism” state, where it’s state policy to mitigate sprawl and encourage walkable communities.

    And the result? More people would be willing to ride their bicyles or walk in a pretty area (like Port Warwick or the Fan) than a place that isn’t so much (like Military Highway or Midlothian). My commute is a 2.5 mile walk all the way down Monument/Franklin from the edge of the Fan to the edge of the Capitol Grounds, and it’s awesome. But I guarantee I wouldn’t be walking half that far if I lived in suburban Henrico.

  10. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Anyone who lives in the Fan like Anton does, or has lived there, like I did, knows exactly what Anton is talking about. One street — I think it’s Floyd — has a two-foot-wide bicycle lane, which gets a fair amount of use. The cost of adding that lane was just about nil. Walking in the Fan is a delight.

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    The idea of being able to bike/walk to work is great. However it depends on the physical environment — how many busy intersections have to be crossed, the topography, shower facilities at work etc.

    And yes, there are sadly examples of evil folks who do lurk on trails.

    Back in 1990, Michael Satcher attacked three women on the Lee-Custis trail in seperate incidents, one of whom was unable to fight him off, was dragged to a nearby garage in Rosslyn and raped/murdered.

    While instances of that are rare — the reality is, women and some men would feel awfully vulnerable on a somewhat secluded trail – thus they stick to the cocoon like safety of their cars.

  12. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I’ve often thought that the cocoon like safety was a two edged sword. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had short range speakerphones so we could talk to the nearby vehicles.

    “It’s OK, you go first”,

    “Thank you”

    “Hey moron, just one, then take turns”.

    “Love your bumper sticker, Right on”

    If we are going to spend half our lives in traffic, we might as well be social.

  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    VDOT recently instituted a new policy for at least some new roads that require bike/ped adjacent unless circumstances and/or local input warrant removal from the design.

    It’s also important to distinquish from “recreational” bike/ped and functional bike/ped – which is oriented to people have the ability to travel on foot or on bike for purposes other than recreation.

  14. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Anonymous 9:02, you raise a good point about the safety of biking trails. I would wager that the rape/murder incident you referred to occurred on what I would deem more of a recreational trail, weaving through woods where a bad guy could easily conceal himself. If we are serious about encouraging more people to use bicycles as a mode of conveyance to work, not just as a recreational activity, we have to make streets more hospitable to bicycles.

    I can’t imagine that more than one percent of the population will ever choose to ride bikes to work under the best of circumstances. But that still would represent a lot of people.

    I’ll never forget visiting the Motley Fool office in old town Alexandria a decade ago and marvelling at the extraordinary number of bicycles parked in racks outside. I have no doubt that some people would bike to work if they didn’t have to risk life and limb to do so.

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