Two Subarus parked on a snowy road in the forest

Go by car

Published 2022-01-05

One of my kiddos is injured such that they can’t ride a bike. Unfortunately, riding bikes is kind of how we get to and from school. So this week I’m the familly chauffeur, going all the usual places and at the usual times, but via car not bike.

(Some of this would be theoretically possible to do by bus but that would mean enormous time sacrifices. Which is a whole ’nother essay.)

I’m on Day 3 (of at least 5), and this might the most sustained car commuting I’ve done in at least 20 years. And it has given me a little time to think, and to notice:

  1. This is the way most people commute, even in hikey-bikey-public-transitty Portland. It’s good, as a bikey person, to experience what most people experience.

  2. By the same token: most bike riders are also, at least sometimes, car drivers. But the reverse it not true. Most Swedes speak English but few Britons speak Swedish. In a contest of empathy, Swedes/cyclists know more about Briton/driver states of mind than vice versa.

  3. Car commuting collapses time in an unhappy way. According to my watch, I am spending slightly less time to-ing and fro-ing this week. But the time spent driving is utterly lost in a way it isn’t on a bike. I drive attentively but as soon as I get out of the car my memory of the trip is mostly erased. It’s half an hour or whatever that just vanishes from my day. I have tried to write about this before: when I move through a space at car speed it feels like forever and no time at all, simultaneously.

  4. Our car commute crisscrosses our bike commute routes, because routes that are good for biking are not good for driving, and vice versa. So a) I experience the same locales but at a right angle and b) realize just how many more bikeable routes than driveable routes there are. We have so much more freedom on bikes.

  5. Corollary: the bike route we choose on any given day barely impacts our total travel time but choosing even a slightly-less-optimal driving route can multiply drive time. So where we seldom ride the same route twice in a week, I drive the same damn route at least twice a day.

  6. I am never tempted to extend my car commutes. Or to stop and take pictures. (The picture at top is not on our commute, it’s from this weekend when we went on a firewood gathering expedition in the Coast Range. We said it looked like a Subaru ad.)

  7. The very worst traffic inevitably occurs right near the school. I knew this intimately from the walking/riding perspective, because drivers at that point are highly distracted & unsafe. But somehow it’s even worse to experience from inside the car! Why the everloving heck would anyone subject themselves to this? Which leads me to…

  8. Why the hell are you trying to drop off/pick up directly in front of the school? There are school busses and kids and parents and dogs and teachers and bikes…and everyone is trying to be in the same place at the same time (the last possible minute, natch). So much less stressful to park a few blocks away, and walk…two blocks. Those two blocks will save your sanity and yet you do not do it.

  9. I try so hard not to believe this but…geez people are so damn lazy. They won’t leave five minutes earlier or park two blocks farther away, to save their own sanity.