Thursday, December 15, 2011

The new commute

The new commute is tough. But because it's by bike, being tough isn't necessarily bad.

The shortest and fastest legal-and-not-too-likely-to-get-me-killed route to work is the one straight down Central Ave, from the AZ Canal path to downtown. It's a tad over twelve miles, vertically descends about 150 feet, and takes me 45-50 minutes to complete most mornings, door to desk. My guess is that's about 15 minutes slower than taking the freeway by car and a little faster than taking the express bus. Again, this is figuring total time from door to desk.

The route home is different. It ascends 150 feet, and though that's not much spread over twelve miles, it makes enough of a difference when biking in rush hour traffic. Negating the gradient subtracts several KPH from my average speed. That makes it harder to ride with traffic, to time lights and to evade. Add to these the phenomenon—as I observe—that afternoon rush hour traffic is more aggressive and unpredictable than morning rush hour traffic, and I have sufficient motivation to take a more out-of-the-way route home, one that's calmer. That route sends me all the way to 20th St and the AZ Canal path near my old neighborhood. It's more than fifteen miles but traverses only a dozen traffic lights or so, which is remarkable considering I cross through downtown at the start, and downtown is a dense matrix of traffic lights. But the afternoon route's elevation gain and added distance cause it to take more time than my morning route; it takes between 60 and 80 minutes, depending on how much power I put to the pedals.

On another note, last week I had the foresight to buy a set of fenders for my touring & commuter bike. I installed them Monday night and tested them in the wet and muddy conditions during Tuesday's commutes. Conclusion: fenders are amazingly effective. Upon finishing both the morning ride and the afternoon ride, my legs were dry and clean, and that's after speeding through inch-deep puddles. Had I ridden a bike without fenders, I would have been a sopping mess from waist to toe—I know that from experience. Tuesday alone made me pro-fenders.


Diamond Girl said...

Why don't you take the route you mapped for me? 3rd Avenue to Missouri to 15th Ave?

Craig M. Brandenburg said...

Diamond Girl— Did I really advise you to take Missouri? Hmm… Now that 15th Ave has bike lines all the way to downtown, it might be time to reevaluate my advice.

As for me, I don't follow my own advice. That's because I cater my advice to whom I'm giving it. In your case, I will recommend routes that have less traffic and simpler intersections. In my case, because (1) I'm comfortable riding with traffic and (2) I ride Mon-Fri, I often will take a higher-traffic route if it means shaving a few minutes off my time.

A Mon-Fri non-telecommuting job requires about 250 morning commutes per year. That means that for each minute a person saves doing their commute, they save four hours for the year. Two minutes is equivalent to an extra day of vacation.

Though Central Ave has more traffic lights than any of my other options—there are 36 lights from Central at Northern to my office—the lights are timed so that I need stop at fewer than half of them. Also, the southbound train disables northbound left-turn signals, which is a bonus for me riding with the train.

Anyway, thanks for asking. Your is a great question.

Bobby and the Presidents said...

JEC -- Greatly appreciated Post as I'm always interested in your particular commute. I may also add that in my former life as a bike commuter (a short life of 1 year really) I found that the prevailing wind direction for my commute (which you know) was South East in the afternoons and much stronger in the early evenings than in the mornings...if same holds true just a few miles south and east, as I suspect it may, then that too could have significant impact on your return home average speed. It always did mine.

Craig M. Brandenburg said...

Bobby et al.— You're absolutely right: wind conditions will prove important. My observations are: (1) the wind is strongest in the spring; and (2) the canal path near where you work, from about 19th Ave to 43rd Ave, acts as a wind tunnel when the wind blows from the west—which, as you note, it usually does.