The research is clear: commuting by car is stressful. There are many reasons I prefer to bike, but a major one is that biking is far less stressful than driving. And I’m not just talking about traffic.
Based on my ~15 years of driving a car, here are my top car-related frustrations:
- Locking keys in the car. I’ve managed to do this at least 3 times. The worst was when borrowing my parents’ car to visit my then-girlfriend-now-wife 2 hours away. My parents had to drive out with the spare set of keys.
- Bumper to bumper traffic. There are few things in life more frustrating than inching along during rush hour. Bikes avoid this because a) they’re a lot more space efficient than cars (especially single occupant ones), b) they have their own dedicated space (most of the time), and c) there are far fewer people commuting by bike.
- Circling the block to find parking. Granville Island comes immediately to mind. The worst is when a spot opens up, but you just passed it and can’t back up because someone else is behind you. And when you finally do find one, you usually have to pay a ridiculous amount and it has slowed you down considerably, because you now have to walk a few blocks.
On the other hand, you can park a bike almost anywhere, and for free. The future looks even better: secure and abundant bike parking is a high priority for Vancouver (see Transportation 2040).
- Car break-ins. Theft is an issue for both bikes and cars, of course, but there’s nothing to break in to with a bike. My car was broken into twice while living in Vancouver (2 blocks from City Hall). The second guy actually re-drilled my door lock, not realizing that I never bothered to fix it the first time. I never kept valuables in the car, but still a frustrating experience.
- Missing your street or exit. We’ve all been there: cruising along and suddenly you realize you’ve gone too far. In Nova Scotia, it’s surprisingly easy to end up heading toward Cape Breton instead of Halifax. Much less of an issue on a bike due to the lower speeds. And even if you do miss your street, it’s far easier to turn around: you can become a pedestrian whenever you want.
- Speeding and parking tickets. I’ve had my share of both of these. I once averaged a speeding ticket per year. You’re not immune to tickets as a cyclist (eg, riding helmetless), but you’re not likely to get fined for speeding or parking illegally.
- Getting towed. Your parking space disappears at 3pm to make way for rush hour traffic. I see it routinely on both Seymour and Yukon here in Vancouver. I’ve only been towed once, in Waterloo, and it wasn’t much fun (I definitely deserved it, though). Not an issue with a bike, unless you’re exceptionally creative with parking.
- Running out of gas. Fortunately, this has never happened to me, but I’m a seasoned procrastinator and I’ve cut it close plenty of times. Obviously not something cyclists need to fret about.
And then there are the routine joys of ownership: insurance, fillups, oil changes, AirCare, winter tires, cleaning, etc. That’s why I’m so glad I ditched my car earlier this year in favour of car sharing with Modo.
I’m not saying biking is entirely worry-free. There are still potholes, flat tires, tailgaters, bird bombings, etc. But overall, commuting by bike is far less stressful.