I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately, so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts here. There is a perception that automobiles are quite a bit faster than bicycles. This may or may not be true, depending on how you look at it.
While automobiles undoubtedly have faster acceleration and faster maximum speeds than bicycles, this really only benefits them strongly on highways and on long, wide-open roads. In an urban setting, where there are stop signs, traffic signals, roundabouts, speed bumps, and such – the average speed that an automobile can travel at is not much greater in many cases than that of a bicycle. When you factor in traffic, you often put the average speed of an automobile below that of a bicycle, especially during morning and evening.
For instance, from time to time I’ll meet my wife at New Seasons (grocery store) on the way home from work, and she will be in our car. We will leave at the same time, and I will usually arrive home either as she’s getting out of the car, or just after she’s gone into the apartment – and most of that trip from New Seasons to our apartment is uphill. Granted, she is not a fast driver, but I am also not a fast cyclist (as I’ve mentioned before, on my daily rides the majority of other cyclists whiz by me).
Then there is parking. When we go out in the car, we often get frustrated looping blocks and running around trying to find a place to park. Most of the areas we go out to in the city have sufficient bike parking that we can usually get to where we’re going, walk right up to a bike rack, lock our bikes, and walk a block or two to our final destination. This isn’t always the case, we sometimes have to look around a bit for something to lock our bikes to, but generally it is much easier to create high-volume bike parking than it is to create high-volume car parking. This, this, this, and this are some examples in Portland.
Once again, I think it’s important to mention the topic of Enjoyment. You want to be able to enjoy the time it takes to get somewhere, not to have it simply be a necessary evil. For whatever reason (I notice this in myself, as well as others), automobiles encourage us to be impatient, causing us to not only do stupid things sometimes, but also to feel a sense of urgency to get places, which greatly reduces the ability to enjoy getting where you’re going. For myself, personally, cars just move too fast for me. I have to focus so much on my driving that it’s hard for me to talk or look at scenery or anything, because my driving suffers. Besides, wouldn’t you rather feel the sun on your face, smell the wood fires in the fireplaces, hear the wind in the trees, feel the breeze on your face?