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Sunday, February 13, 2005

Time, space, gas, money 

Some guy I've never read before posted a semi-interesting article on the ecological benefits of telecommuting. (รพ: Instapundit)

Long-time observers of my psyche may know that I verge on being pro-pollution (a quote from my university days: "what do we want? Global warming! When do we want it? Now!") The conservation arguments against commuting hold little truck with me. My gravest personal shame is that I toodle around in a pathetically efficient Tercel, and don't even use that to go to work most days, preferring my ZEV Bianchi Sport. Two wheels, thirty-odd pounds, and the only emissions are from when I eat something that doesn't agree with me.

But my commute saves something far more precious: time. And the saving of time is what inspired me to write further about telecommuting.

Time is painfully finite. In the course of a typical 24-hour day, sleep is pretty close to being a universal thief of a third of your life. There's not much we can do to change that. Work, for most of us, is going to occupy another third of the day, five days out of seven. The rest is eating, chores, free time, TV watching, and whatnot.

I'm going to take the tack, for a moment, that eating is fun, chores have to be done until iRobot comes out with the general-purpose Roomba Maid in 2021, and that if you choose to spend your free time watching TV that's your business.

My enemy today is that most fiendish sapper of time, the commute.

For most of us, getting to and from work is 10 trips per week. I'm pretty typical: my commute is about 30 minutes by car: a little less in the morning, a little more on the way home. It's not especially soul-destroying (you have to cross a bridge, perhaps one to the North Shore, for that), but it's utterly dead time. If I did it often, I'd definitely be in the market for talking books aplenty. The transit option is not a lot more time (45 minutes each way) but does involve making a change from bus to Skytrain (not that I mind; it cuts about 15 minutes from the pre-Skytrain version of the commute). So in the default version of my life, I'm spending 1 hour every weekday, 10 hours/week, commuting. And it's reasonably fatiguing, too: I don't know about you, but I find rush-hour driving draining.

In my new, better life, I've had the luck to be on a flex schedule most of the time, which means 9-day fortnights, which means one less commute every two weeks.

The other, massive thing I've done is turn my commute into a workout.

It happens that I can ride my bicycle to and from work just about as fast as I can drive there. In the best case, the car is probably 10 minutes faster each way, and in the worst case, the car is probably slower on an absolute basis (and this would be for same days; a fun thing about bicycles is how much less travel times are affected by traffic congestion. A day when North Road is completely bogged into motionlessness will slow my bike trip down by a few minutes, but will leave me far, far ahead of cars plunging into the same traffic jam.

The key thing here is that my commute now turns into a virtuous exercise. Just for maintaining an active life and a reasonably healthy body, I should be riding my bike regularly. If I want to race with any sort of competitiveness, I have to ride my bike 10+ hours per week. Some riders do manage to fit this kind of mileage into their schedules, but it usually requires bachelorhood, a similarly-inclined spouse, some job-related excuse for so much exercise, or rising at 5am to get in a few hours of riding before work.

Instead, I just have an hour of bike exercise every work day. It works for me. It saves my life, and puts my otherwise dead-time commute to work. It suits my goal-oriented training motivations. You should all do the same.

Now, I have to work on the other time-sink in my life, television. And laziness.

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