Thursday, July 8, 2010

Adjusting to the Velo Timezone

This is the first time when my stay in Austria involved cycling from beginning to end - without relying on public transport for any reason. And a curious thing has been happening: everywhere I go, I am always early!

I am a moderately punctual person, but definitely not someone who is obsessed with arriving "on the dot," let alone ahead of time. So why was this suddenly happening? Then it hit me: After living in Vienna on and off for 3 years now, I've developed an internal "estimator" of how long it will take me to get to any given location in the city - based on my experiences with the U-Bahn (subway) and trolley systems here. Even though I cycle now, my internal time estimator has not adjusted yet and still functions based on "public transport time" - making me always early, because it is actually faster to travel in Vienna by bicycle! To me this revelation was a "wow" moment because Vienna is such a large city. Sure, traveling by bicycle is more pleasant, but it never occurred to me that it is also faster. I can honestly say that my days here have been made less hectic by the time I've saved on commuting. I like being in the velo time zone!

15 comments:

  1. This has definitely been my experience in Portland. Prior to riding a bike for transportation, I rode bus/light rail for most of my trips, and I was also surprised to find that riding a bike shortened most of my trips, and also made them more consistent, since the bus is prone to a lot of fluctuation due to more or fewer passengers, traffic, etc.

    It's great to realize this is true, even when you're not an aggressive rider - when you're just pedaling along at the pace that is comfortable to you and getting where you need to go. It's one of the best kept secrets I think.

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  2. Every time I've been late for work, I was using public transport--except for one time when someone offered to drive me and her car broke down!

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  3. THAT is a GORGEOUS clock! I need one of those in front of my house. :)

    Is that just the case in Vienna, or does Boston have a Velo Timezone as well? My trip to the grocery store seems to be the only spot in my town in which Velo time applies.

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  4. Amy - In Boston I never really rode public transportation enough to get a good sense for its timing. Before cycling, I would walk almost everywhere - even if it took over an hour!

    Justine - That happens a lot when I am in somebody else's car!

    Portlandize - I think a lot of it has to do with waiting times as well. A bike may be slower than subway or trolley, but you are never waiting for it to arrive (or walking several blocks to and from a stop).

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  5. Amy, in Boston I find that on the fastest route between A and B, I usually beat the T, but I usually choose routes that take about 1.5 as long.

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  6. Yeah, you're definitely on Bicycle Standard Time!

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  7. I think the subway trains in Boston can be unreliable. I've had several important appointments almost ruined by the T. It's been recommended to me to leave "at least an hour early" when taking the T to "important" engagements. I haven't had an opportunity to go anywhere really important by bike yet, but maybe soon.

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  8. Same here with the T and appointment times. I wrote earlier about why I find public transport in Boston not as useable as in Vienna.

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  9. True indeed, I have done such experiments several times. In fact, I even managed to outrun the U6 several times along the Gürtel! (I did not expect this to happen myself, but surprisingly it happened almost every time -- even when we separated at the door and I still had to unlock and load my bike)

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  10. @Velouria: I think also, when on a bike you can choose any route you like and change routes in the middle of going somewhere if it gets clogged up or whatever. On a bus, streetcar, etc, you're stuck with one single route (which is usually a bit round-about), and if traffic gets bad, you're stuck.

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  11. Anna - I have "raced" trolleys and have discovered that I am faster as well : ) It takes them so long to gain momentum after a stop light, that by the time they get going I am already at the next one.

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  12. I like the idea of BST (Bike Standard Time)!

    I can routinely beat mass transit in most places I visit with a bicycle, but when the weather is really crappy the mass transit can be nice.

    Aaron

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  13. portlandize - Yup, that is true as well. That one ties back into the "in control" vs "out of control" feelings that make me love cycling and dislike cars and public transport.

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  14. @Velouria: yeah, I totally agree with you on the "in control" vs. "out of control" issue. a bicycle really gives you a lot of freedom in that sense.

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  15. One of the reasons I kept riding as a kid and a teen was because it was always faster than public transportation. Another observation from a good friend (who I met through a love of cycling): it's better than commuting by car; you can hammer if you want to.

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