Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Going the Distance

I find my sense of scale with regards has become a tad warped in the last couple years. With the distances I regularly travel on a bike, I've developed a really good idea how long it will hypothetically take me to get somewhere, but conversely, my idea of how long it takes to get somewhere in a car is now all over the place. I have no clue which traffic patterns to account for, what gas costs until I am unpleasantly surprised at the gas station, and am generally awful at finding parking because I never have the need.

This came to light for me today at school, where our relative commute times were under discussion. One guy, an exchange student from India, mentioned that he takes a bus home and mentioned it takes about 45 minutes to go 8 miles. My immediate reaction was "Hey, that's once you account for stop lights and all, that is MOVING." And then everyone else looked at me funny. Then I remembered that most people's sense of distance is from a car, and 8 miles in 45 minutes is actually quite slow.

It's so much easier to become a fully immersed local as a cyclist, partially because you tend to figure out where EVERYTHING close to you is located. Hardware stores, liquor stores, groceries, dry cleaners, library, and for the ultimate irony, I've even biked to Auto Zone. If it's far away and over a barrier (a hill, across a freeway, more than a couple miles away), it becomes an event to go unless you are en route elsewhere at the time.

So to be able to cycle on a vehicular level in America, you have to be able to go the distance. How do you deal with our cities' sense of scale?

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