A lifestyle shift – riding a bike

I rode from my office to a listing I am marketing the other day – all told it took me about forty five minutes, round trip – and added about 15 minutes to my traveling time. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I saved gas, burned a few calories and hopefully led by example a little bit. Biking around Charlottesville has provided a very different perspective to the one I had before – different sights and smells – I noticed the relatively large number of backyard gardens in Belmont for one.

While biking certainly isn’t feasible for all of my trips – showing property for example – my new bike rig (above below) does allow me to cut down on a few miles almost every day – and that’s not too bad.

Seth Godin’s post, Times a Million, was a seminal post for me, and I have referred to it often since he wrote it.

Notice the lack of “times a million” math.

If we figure that the average driver in the US does 20,000 miles a year, I’m going to use about 400 gallons of gas. A car getting 20 mpg is going to use closer to a thousand gallons. Figure that there are about 100 million actively driven cars in the US, which means that the net difference if “everybody did it” has the potential to save 60 billion gallons (600 times 100 million) of gas. A year.

No, this isn’t a pitch to switch. It’s a pitch to describe how amazingly difficult it is to market that story.

The guy above who’s not going to switch from his Explorer to an Edge because it will only save him $300 a year is clearly not going to be interested (never mind moved) in the thought experiment above. It’s too distant. Too far away.

A lot has changed in the year since he wrote that post – gas has increased a bit – and buyers and sellers have become more cognizant and aware of what things cost.

Year over year gas prices in Virginia
Think about it – what if we all went car-free one day a week, or rode a bike to the coffee shop or did something without driving – even once a week?

Neil at the Free Enterprise Forum asks – $4.00+ Gasoline – High Enough to Make You Move?

I think that for some and perhaps many, the answer increasingly is going to be – absolutely.

There are plenty of discussions ongoing right now – one of which is whether a streetcar could be part of the solution. On this, Dave Norris is on point –

Mayor Dave Norris and Councilor Julian Taliaferro both said they want to hold off on the study and wrap it into the larger examination of how to remake transit in the area. The city and county are hoping to get the General Assembly’s permission next year to form a regional transit authority.

“I’m intrigued by the idea but I think it is a very expensive proposition,” Norris said. “So we have to make sure it is financially feasible and see how it will fit into the broader transportation network.” (bolding mine)

We need regional solutions – and as people look to bike and walk places – Realtors, planners, politicians and the rest need to recognize this.

Update 06-18-2008: Joe at Sellsius points to this site – Ride the City – which shows the best routes to get around NYC. Come to Charlottesville, guys! Either way, I subscribed to their blog.


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  1. Danilo Bogdanovic June 16, 2008 at 09:45

    Definitely with you on this one Jim. I’ve put serious thought into riding my bike to preview property, especially vacant properties. Have been riding almost every day lately and may as well combine the training/exercise with work.

    Another option I’ve though about for previewing properties a bit further away than Sterling or Ashburn is getting a Vespa or a motorcycle. They get way better gas mileage than any car aside from an electric one.

    As you said, you’d save money while burning a few calories which is great for the pocket book and the beer belly.

  2. Sara G June 16, 2008 at 10:06

    I had a discussion with Chris Gensic a few months ago about paved paths in the area for roller blading. We didn’t come up with much, but Chris did offer this:

    We are working to provide many more trails in the near future. My position is a new one dedicated to that, and we are getting a lot of budget money for it. Within 2 years, there will be much more on the grounds, I am still in paperwork mode right now.

    For more info, see http://www.charlottesville.org/trails, which has a map, our plan, and link to Albemarle County’s plan.

    I am also working with a non-profit on plans for a trail to Crozet, but that is moving a little more slowly. We hope to have some sort of announcement this year, but still need to talk
    to some landowners.

    And I also recently saw this from the Charlottesville Tomorrow blog:

    Dan Mahon said the linear park would be able to serve as both a recreational trail as well as a way for people to commute on bikes to the City. He pointed out that the draft Places29 Master Plan shows an uninterrupted pedestrian trail all the way up to Hollymead, as well as connections to the Rivanna Trail. Gensic said he was still working on the funding to connect a new bike trail for the Route 250 bypass to the Meadowcreek Parkway trail.

    I love the trails found out in Boulder, CO (and Denver too) that go for miles. I also spent 5 years in Rochester, NY along the Erie Canal which is paved for much of it’s length across the whole state. I think this area has the potential to become like Boulder, with “more bikes than people” and I’d Love that!

  3. Jim Duncan June 17, 2008 at 06:04

    Danilo – every day when I can ride my bike once or twice, I’m helping my gut, wallet and oh yeah – the environment, too.

    Sara – All it’s going to take is for us (the taxpayers) to continue to express our desire for these things – consistently, vocally and convincingly – for a couple of years perhaps.

    Particularly now that VDOT has announced just how little money they have. I wonder if we could sell a gas tax now if the state/locality would guarantee its dedication to bike/pedestrian paths …. I also wonder how the Town Hall with David Toscano went last night.

  4. Barbara McMurry June 17, 2008 at 09:46

    Way to go Jim. I applaud you for this. Be careful out there.

  5. Pingback: Montague Miller Blog » A Lefestyle Shift-riding a bike

  6. Joseph Ferrara.sellsius June 18, 2008 at 07:33

    What a great example to set. And you will be the one folks point to and say “Hey, there’s Jim, he’s a Realtor. Good guy that Jim.”
    When I was in Amsterdam, I was amazed that everyone owned a bicycle and used it.
    I think you’ve inspired me to get back on mine.

  7. Jim Duncan June 18, 2008 at 07:38

    Joe –

    Yesterday I parked at a central location (near a coffee shop) and rode to a morning appointment. On the way back, I saw a client/friend and their kids – the older riding his bike with training wheels – and talked to them for a few minutes.

    Had I not been on my bike, I likely would have been relegated to waving – the 5 minute connection was valuable.

  8. Jonathan Dalton June 18, 2008 at 15:31

    Like the concept in theory and may do something similar come the fall. Now? It’s 109 degrees in the shade. No way I’m touching a bike unless it has a 2-ton, 13-seer a/c unit on the handlebars.

  9. Jim Duncan June 19, 2008 at 06:23

    Jonathan –

    It would be more environmentally friendly if that was a 15-seer unit. 🙂 And – I thought your heat was fine because it’s a “dry” heat!

    So far, biking a couple of miles a day has been ok -and I’m glad I bought a relatively inexpensive bike for starters. Assuming I keep doing this, my next one will be better – did you know that bikes now come with disc brakes???

  10. Kieran June 28, 2008 at 03:34

    To make biking to work feasible employers need to provide bike parking and changing areas/showers. Government can also do its bit to encourage bike commuting, through tax incentives like this one in the UK http://www.cyclescheme.co.uk/ that allow the bikes to be bought tax free, and through providing safe bicycle paths and trails.

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  17. Richard B Britton December 20, 2010 at 15:39

    I’ve been wondering for years about how to bike from the Montgomery Ridge area off Polo Grounds Road over to Charlottesville’s commercial strip along Rt 29 north. Riding along Polo Grounds Road looks treacherous and getting across Rt 29’s 10 lanes looks like suicide.
    A bike trail under the Rt 29 bridge across the S Fork of the Rivanna would help and cost very little. But a trail along a mile or two of Polo begins to sound like real money.
    A lot of energetic folks live in the Hollymead area that I believe would make big use of a safe bike trail into the city, if we had one.

  18. Jim December 23, 2010 at 08:05

    Richard –

    That is a great idea and one that I have thought about as well. I firmly believe that if the bicycle infrastructure were put in place, people would use it. Maybe not the first or second year, but it would be a generational shift.

  19. Matt December 31, 2010 at 07:16

    What more do you know about map my ride? I have heard a little about it and I am heading out to Salt Lake City Utah in April for the FrontRunner Century Bicycle Ride and I was thinking of using it on my bicycle ride. This will be my 4th century bicycle ride that I have ever done and the FrontRunner Century looks easy and I get to go on a vacation. Have you heard of that ride http://www.frontrunnercentury.com

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