A reader writes:
Like some of your readers, I disagree with Lloyd Alter's food cost math. Almost every American consumes far more calories per day than their bodies require, and the exercise would help offset those extra caloric extravagances. In other words, most people are already paying for those calories and not using them.
But I fail to see how one could ever ride so slow as to take 1.5 to 2 hours to go 15 miles. Heck, I can RUN that fast, and I'm not a particularly fast or adept runner. As for the sweating, that is one crutch of the problem. The other is rain. But if you look around, I bet most people have access to showers at work or a nearby gym. Many employers in Pacific Northwest already offer gym memberships to employees. One previous employer of mine had showers at work.
All I hear are excuses from people not wanting to get off their lazy arses.
Another problem I see has to do with the very core of commuting itself: why do we live so far from where we work? I have purposely chosen to live close to where I work so that I can walk or ride my bike or take public transit, even though I pay a little more in rent. Why live farther away to save 50 bucks per month when I would have to drive to work, find a place to park on the street which inconveniences people who live there like myself, or pay hefty parking fees to park in a structure?
Seeing some of the feedback from your readers is frustrating. Yeah, you get sweaty; and yes, it may take longer to get to your job, but I guarantee you will feel great. Bike commuting is doable if our culture wasn't so car-centric. The real issue is sprawl. People are driving more and causing issues with health, happiness and marriage, as this recent piece by Annie Lowrey attests.
"The whole concept of biking to work is nonsense" is, well, nonsense. For some people it doesn't make sense, I'll give your reader that much. But there are a whole lot of us that it does make sense for. We live in cities, and we don't work in uptight office parks. My commute by bike takes half the time it does by train or bus (don't even get me started on the fools who drive to work in a city with transit options), and most of my co-workers bike as well.
The thousands of us who already do physical labor during the day (including service sector and retail jobs) don't have to worry about changing clothes at work, but that is an option for people who can't wear shorts and T's in the office. And as far as the smell goes – being packed into a train during rush hour in the summer is about the worst thing my nose has ever experienced, and I know I come out of there just as sweaty as I get on my bike.
People are always so quick to dismiss something as "nonsense" simply because it wouldn't work for them. They have to realize we live in a hugely diverse country with an enormous number of different lifestyles.
(Street graffiti by Peter Drew)