Thursday, June 30, 2011

What Does 'Commuting' Mean to You?

Some of us have conventionally structured jobs, where we ride our bikes to the office, stay there for a given period of time, then ride home. Others might move from site to site throughout the day, or work from home, or go to the office and back several times. I've had lots of conversations with friends in both job categories, and it's clear that there are benefits and drawbacks to each: With a conventional schedule, you get a sense of structure, and once you leave the office you are done. On the down side, sitting in the same building for an entire day can feel constricting. With a non-conventional schedule, there is a greater sense of freedom and you can organise your time to suit your needs. On the down side, it can feel as if the work never really ends and that you are chained to your laptop or phone 24/7.

Most of my jobs have fallen somewhere in the second, unstructured category. Even while working in a university setting - probably my most "normal" employment - it was always a back and forth between different locations on and off campus. Now that I have transitioned entirely to freelance work, it is up to me how to organise my time - which is nice in theory, but can work against me if I am not careful.

Finding it nearly impossible to work from home, I like to leave the house for the day and transition between one setting and another - coffee shop, studio, supply store, meeting, park bench. My laptop perpetually in tow, the nomadism is my means of staying both sane and focused.

Cycling back and forth between these locations and home is my version of commuting - though it is disheartening when those with structured jobs say things like "Oh, but then you don't have to commute, do you." I know what they mean to say: There is no pressure for me to arrive somewhere at exactly 9am every day. While this is mostly true, I do have meetings where I am expected to be on time. I also make more trips per day than they do and don't really have a concept of week-ends. But it is not a competition and I think that whatever one considers to be "commuting" is valid for that person. The term is a strange one for non-English speakers anyhow, as they struggle to understand why a special word is needed for traveling to and from work!

For those who do commute in a nomadic fashion, and do so by bicycle, there are some helpful posts about establishing a mobile office (via Girls and Bicycles) and an outdoor office (via Simply Bike). And for those who work 9-5 jobs, there are some great posts by Dottie from Let's Go Ride a Bike on how to take a refreshing joyride on your lunch hour. Cycling can function both to infuse a conventional job with a sense of freedom and to bring structure into a more chaotic work situation. What does commuting mean to you, and how (if at all) has it been affected by cycling?

53 comments:

  1. To me, commuting means using your transportation method of choice to get from point A to point B. It doesn't really matter how many points you need to make, what mode(s) or if there are stops between those points.

    I've had jobs where a car was essential, where buses made sense, and most recently, where both a car and bicycle are part of my daily commute.

    I start my current commute by putting the bicycle on the car, then drive my daughter to her preschool. Then I ride 5 miles from there to work. My wife picks up my daugher and the car at then end of her work day where I leave it parked. She takes a subway and walks to where we leave the car during the day, while I ride from work home.

    If my wife and I felt safe riding our bicycles with our daughter, we'd probably forgo the car all together and just use bicycles. I hope in a few years that will be the case here in San Francisco, but even for me, a dedicated commuter, I'm not quite there yet.

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  2. To me commuting means, as said in the comment before, to get from A to B, regardless of distance. I have actually never thought of commuting as going back and forth to different places during the day, but it definitely make sense the way you put it.

    I commute 25 km to work in Sweden and goes back the same 25km from work in evening, that is what I used to call my commuting. All the km I do bike in town I have never counted as commuting, but I think I have to from now. :)

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  3. In British English we don't really have a separate word for "travelling to and from work": the word "commuting" is usually only used when you have to travel in and out of a town from somewhere else.

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  4. In Germany the meaning of commuting is when you have go out of your own town to work somewhere else. I enjoy riding to the office where I stay all day long, because this my personal time-off with my Gazelle. At the end of the day, it is nice not just to simply drive back home, but take some time for your health and to enjoy beeing outside and get fresh air.

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  5. I think what a lot of drivers don't realize is, just because we're on a bike, doesn't mean we aren't affected by rush hour traffic. My commute gets snarled up in Fenway traffic- and there are no bike lanes, meaning I have to use the lanes just like the cars. Bikers thus have to 'time' their commutes too if they want to avoid the bulk of the traffic or the influx of out-of-towners looking for parking spaces.

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  6. When I'm in a car, I rarely use the word commuting at all. When I do, it is simply to describe my trip to work. When I'm on a bike, commuting involves any type of non-recreational riding.

    The years I spend commuting by bike were not much different than those spent using a car. I generally enjoy it and use the time to relax and listen to the news. Riding allowed me spend a little more time relaxing and kept me in better shape, but required me to leave a good bit earlier.

    My favorite commute was the 12 miles I rode each way to get to my student teaching position. It took about 45min and really helped me prepare for the day in the mroning and relax in the afternoon. In fact, at each of the jobs I was able to ride to, having a bike nearby has made me happier. When I worked in a library, I would take my breaks next to the bike rack so I could look at it for 15 minutes before heading back inside.

    As an aside, what makes you think that someone must speak english to have a word for the trip to work?

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  7. I choose to use the term 'commuting' to refer specifically to regular trips to and from a workplace away from home. I also tend to think of the term as only applicable to longer trips. I don't generally consider myself a 'commuter' since my trip to work is about 10 minutes. But I consider my work colleagues who have to take the train or drive from an hour away as 'commuters'. (And the MBTA calls their extended metro train network the 'commuter rail'. I'm not sure if I'm correct in my usage, but that's what a commuter means to me.

    Cycling has profoundly changed my 'commute'. Whereas I used to spend 30 minutes each way walking and taking the 'T' to work, I now ride a bike exclusively. And in the same time that it would take me to briskly walk to the T and wait for the train, I now can accomplish so much more: drop a kid off at school (on the tandem), stop at a cafe with Mrs. S for coffee. On my commute home, I can run errands and hit two or three destinations, all on opposite sides of town. Couldn't do that walking!

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  8. I think of "commuting" primarily as something people from suburbs do to come into the city (A to B), with specific transit designated for that purpose. I think of the subway (NYC, in my case) very differently than I do Metro-North, PATH or LIRR commuter trains. People ride to work on the subway, of course, but I see it as something generally more circuitous, with multiple purposes beyond commuting. I see my bike the same way as I do the subway. Though with rather more greenery and fewer mariachi bands.

    I also don't commute anywhere. I work mostly at home mostly and have an office that I use infrequently. I do, however, do most of my travel by bike.

    It's interesting how "commuter" has become a locus of identity for cyclists, perhaps providing cover from criticism that stems from US attitude that cycling is either sport or fun (and you should, of course, be infinitely miserable on your way to work #puritans). I think in the cycling community "commuter" does denote certain things, and is occasionally used as parameter of exclusion or a banner for some kind of superiority of purpose and this is, of course, a bummer.

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  9. Commuting, to me, just means "traveling to work," by whatever means is appropriate.

    I have to admit, I miss having a steady "go to work and come home" job, even one like my old one that had somewhat irregular scheduling. These days I'm juggling a bunch of part-time jobs and temp work, which means weird schedules and as much time spent going from one place to another as is spent actually doing paying work.

    Unfortunately, it means very long days for very little money, but I get in some good mileage (more than 50 miles some days) and when it comes to riding your bike to frustrating Recession Jobs, getting there is ALL the fun.

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  10. While it can also be used for non-work kinds of back-and-forth travel, I think the German pendeln maps pretty well onto the American English concept of 'commuting'.

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  11. What commuting by bike means to me...

    ...one thing that I have noticed is that, barring a few minutes here and there, my actual commuting time to and from work does not fluctuate. This is a very good thing to me, as it allows for a predictable schedule. It also, as I would like to point out, stands in stark contrast to the infinitely variable arrival/departure times that can be experienced while using public transit, as anyone who has waited for/ridden a MBTA bus or train can attest to.

    Another thing that I have found out about bike-commuting is the ability and ease in varying a route. Most days I go a pretty direct route to and from work, but I am never obliged or committed to that route, and can choose to take a slower, more scenic route, or "mix it up" at any time.

    I like the flexibility.

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  12. While no work logistics are absolutely ideal, in some ways I envy your relatively flexible arrangement of bopping around from place to place on a bike.

    I work from home with a work-provided laptop and need a WiFi connection at all times. I wish I could use a bicycle to travel among various locations and break up my day! As it stands, I usually take a fitness ride of 30-60 minutes at some convenient point during my day. It's not commuting, but it lets me incorporate cycling into my workday.

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  13. I've done both - having had a classic nine to five (more like eight to six) job with a bike+train commute - and a blog called disgruntled commuter - and now having switched to the complete opposite, freelancing and downshifting, the bike has been about the only constant. I actually miss the commute - not the trains so much as the punctuation between the working and non-working part of the day. I seem to have replaced it with an hour's ride to fetch the paper instead, which gives me the same headspace and seems to meet the innate human need to be on the move for a certain amount of time a week, regardless of working circumstances. When I was working, I found that replacing the bus with the bike completely transformed my commute for the better - it gave me so much more control over the timing of my journey I completely didn't mind the occasional drenching on the way

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  14. Personally I've always liked how 'commute' is close to 'transmute' and I think of how the morning commute is the process by which I switch from my personal home self to my professional self and I start thinking about my to-do list and agenda. The evening commute is when I switch back and on the ride home I'll start with ruminating on what happened at work but eventually transition into the evenings plans. At least, usually.

    so, in my book, any ritual or exercise that one has to do to switch between personal and professional -- whether that's closing a home office door or going to a favorite cafe and plugging in or shuttering yourself behind a newspaper on the train -- is an act of commuting.

    With a conventional schedule, you get a sense of structure, and once you leave the office you are done.

    well, in this day and age of smartphones and global business this isn't always the case for us office drones either. In both this job and my last job, we had what we call the 'homefront pause' where email traffic may subside after 6, but picks right up after 9pm when everyone's finished having dinner and remembering who their children are.

    well, it's not always that bad ... but there can be certain frenzied phases where it's worth joking about.

    Another cyclist friend of mine told me about how, when she would interview at companies, one of her major conditions was to refuse work laptops and insist on a desktop. At least then, you have a natural limit about how much work you can be expected to do from home. I'm not quite so hardcore, but there are days when I specifically and intentionally leave my laptop locked to my desk as a sign that I am really and truly done for the day (and/or travel with my Carradice, which is the least optimized of my luggage options for a laptop)


    This past week, I've had to help kickoff a project in Australia, but due to visa paperwork delays, I couldn't travel* so I've had to negotiate an off-shift schedule. start work at 6, do conference calls and webex's until 3am. go home to sleep, wake at 11 or noon. Since most of these calls don't have to happen at the office, I've been working from home most days, and also while I'm not 'officially' supposed to be working until 6, the emails still come and I still, like a sucker, check in on them. So, it's been a bit like posing as your unstructured job professional -- while running errands specifically choosing lunch spots that offer wi-fi. Typing replies while waiting in line at the post office. Walking around with a headset on while prepping dinner.

    and, so obviously, I'm still getting the hang of this shift and it's completely upended my traditional notion of a 'commute' ... reinforcing how for folks like you who make this your regular gig, how important it is to have some way to shut things off and separate work from home just to stay sane.

    * -- well, I could travel, so long as it didn't mean coming back to the US ;)

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  15. We Americans love to slice and dice and dissect everything. I've always thought of commuting being the getting to and from work. I have a 40 mile commute to one of those conventional jobs you refer to. I don't think of my moving around during the day as commuting, certainly not running out to get something to eat. But I do see your point as to your current situation. Transportational cycling is all bicycling I do that is not meant to be purely for fun or exercise. Commuting is a type of transportational cycling, running errands another. Since my commute is so long (going from home in Leavenworth Ks, to work in Overland Park Ks (a suburb of Kansas City)) I couldn't possibly do it all by bike. But I do try, twice a week, to ride part of it. I have a number of spots I can park the car and ride anywhere from 12 to 15 miles into work, and then ride back to the car after work. Since the heat index is supposed to get to 110 today, I just drove all the way in. I'm usually fine if it stays in the 90s or below.

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  16. JdeP - Where I lived, I heard the term used to mean "travel to and from work" so now I am trying to remember whether those using the word were coming from out of town. It is possible. Or long distances at least.

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  17. Peppy (the amazing I can park anywhere I want cat)June 30, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    I commute regularly from the kitchen to my litterbox. Sometimes there is traffic. I often have to salmon or hop over the couch to get there first.

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  18. The funny thing is that I have to constantly remind myself that "commuting" doesn't only refer to my trip to and from work. Last year during Bike/Walk Week, I was unemployed and really sad that I couldn't participate. Representatives from the program had to remind me several times that any errand I might run during the week could be considered a commute.

    I suspect it's because short-distance transportation was the reason I got into cycling in the first place. So riding to the grocery store or the library isn't "commuting", it's just what's done. Whereas my ride to work, because it's so much longer than my usual errand runs, felt like a major hurdle to overcome. Once I had, I felt like a "real" commuter, and the other trips, although there was a specific destination in mind, became "fun" trips - because they weren't my crazy work commute.

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  19. I have a traditional, 9-5 job (plus some freelance stuff that I work outside of those hours) and wish I could commute to work but, alas, I work in another city about 35 minutes away by car on a freeway, making it more or less impossible to get there by bike. However, when I am sitting in traffic for an hour every evening in the blistering sun, I do like to think about how nice it would be to have that option. ;) I ride my bike for enjoyment, errands, etc but cannot use it in the work day commute.

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  20. "I work from home with a work-provided laptop and need a WiFi connection at all times. I wish I could use a bicycle to travel among various locations and break up my day!"

    I need the internet as well. But many towns now have free WiFi in the center business district, and many coffee shops offer it now as a matter of course. Public libraries too. Or you could buy a wireless card and have your own mobile internet!

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  21. Wikipedia does a nice job describing the derivation of the term "commute" as traveling back and forth to work. In the early days of train travel, tickets to travel from home to work and back daily were "commuted" or discounted if you paid by the week or month. Then the term took off from there to all the variety of usage we see now.

    RJD

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  22. I have a long (12.5 mile each way, with lots of Western PA hills) commute, and I love it. I've gotten in much better shape since I started working this job about 3 years ago. The thing is, I would never ride my bike recreationally about two hours a day -- it's too much time out of my day, I have other things to do, etc. But since it's part of a commute, I can justify it, even though it amounts to something over an hour more than it would take me to drive. And I can justify buying things for my bike, since compared to a car, practically anything for a bike is dirt cheap. Win-win.

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  23. Jon - That's very interesting, and I see that reasoning a lot. To me it seems irrational, though I understand it. So say if you lived within 10 minutes cycling distance from work, you still could not justify cycling for sport/recreation in the time this would free up?

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  24. "In Germany the meaning of commuting is when you have go out of your own town to work somewhere else. "

    Wait, what?
    What is the word in German?

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  25. Commuting to me is something that takes a long period of time to get to work, like from one city to the next or from one village to the next. Meanwhile "gettin' to work" is just plain ole' getting to work which is a lot like "sloggin' it". Drudge, drudge, drudge, drudge.

    Right now I'm commuting with the train to Winchoten then taking the bus down to Vladtwedde which takes over an hour and a half if I have to sit for the bus any. If I rode it by bike it would be two hours one way as the crow flies and I'm really starting to ponder that.

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  26. V -- yes, that's right. My time is too valuable, there are too many things to do around the house, etc. I know it's not quite rational.

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  27. "Right now I'm commuting with the train"

    So "with the train" is the same in Dutch as it is in German : )

    It's funny - after living in Vienna for a while, even the English speakers start to say "with the train."

    Jon Webb - Neat. I am not being critical, just interested in the biases we (all) have about how we spend our time and the reasoning we use to justify them. Maybe a topic for a later post.

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  28. It's okay not to have to commute. I currently commute 34 miles each way to and from work (by car). Previously I worked from home for several years. I traveled to meetings, the post office, the bank etc. but I did not commute. Not having to commute was far superior. I ride my bike when I get home.

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  29. Commuting to me (as an English person) means travelling from the provinces to a workplace in London. So if I had to travel several times a week from where I live in Norfolk to London to work, I'd think of that as 'commuting'.

    As it is, I don't consider myself a 'commuter' because my workplace is only 16 miles away from my home. So I just 'go to work'. My journey to work consists of cycling 6 miles to the local train station, catching a train for 4 miles in order to get across the river, then cycling a further 6 miles until I get to the hospital where I work. Then reversing that journey on the way home.

    Re the train thing, I'd say 'I commute by train'. But maybe that's just an English thing...

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  30. Brett - So what would you call work-related transportational cycling if you wanted a shorter name for it? Around here, people refer to a 10 minute bike ride to the office as a commute. What if you take multiple 10 minute rides to different construction sites for work instead - no longer commuting?..

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  31. Jon Webb said...
    V -- yes, that's right. My time is too valuable, there are too many things to do around the house, etc. I know it's not quite rational.

    My twist on what Jon says: For me its not that I find my time to be so valuable, but the wife gets mad... By car my 40 mile commute takes about an hour. So I'm typically away from home 11 hours of the day, 2 for traveling, and 9 at work. (8 plus lunch and breaks)

    If I ride my bike for part of it (15 miles) the commute takes 90 minutes each way and I'm away for 11 to 12 hours (I try to get away earlier when I am riding home) So I've gotten two hours of riding in and the wife doesn't notice the time impact too much. But if I drive home after being gone 11 hours and say I want to go on a 1 hour ride, she gets upset because it's seen as taking time away from her.

    End result is I get in many more miles a week if I do part of the commute by bike than I could otherwise.

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  32. Okay, so scenario for both of you (David & Jon): replace "cycling" with "exercising" (be it a fitness regimen at home, jogging, or going to the gym). Would it still be a guilty pleasure thing, or is that justified because it's "for your health"?

    I ask because I have friends who spend 1-2 hours at the gym 5 days a week, but wonder how it is that I have time to cycle.

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  33. Velouria said...
    "Brett - So what would you call work-related transportational cycling ... What if you take multiple 10 minute rides to different construction sites for work instead - no longer commuting?.."

    I think I'd call it working. I'm jealous.

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  34. I go to the gym at work, so the wife doesn't "see" that time. I don't "exercise" much from home.

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  35. LOL... you have totally proven to me that the Nederlands taal is getting to my brain. In Dutch it is "met de trein" (with the train) as well as "met de fiets" (with the bike), "met de auto" (with the car).

    I'm loosing my marbles.

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  36. When I say "mit dem Rad" I am always imagining carrying the bike in my handbag : )

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  37. Examining my psyche, I think I am just sort of driven to justify what I do with my time. Were I to take a recreational ride or go to the gym purely to exercise I would feel like I was wasting time when I could be doing something else. Commuting by bicycle gives me enough justification to satisfy my need for purpose while also creating an environment that's conducive to thoughtful reflection (because I ride the same route over and over).

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  38. For me, commuting is going to work, and coming home. I'm glad my commute is only @7miles each way. Once I'm at work, I tend to travel to other sites during the workday, but I tend to be piloting a 12-passenger van, as I am transporting other ppl.
    -rob

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  39. My office is a few minutes on foot from home, so I don't commute, but I need to go to meetings, deliver magazines and books and components, etc., so work-related rides are a big part of my life. I enjoy these rides so much that I got a special bike for them - see

    http://janheine.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/urban-delivery/

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  40. I keep a bicycle at the office because of the distance and the fragmented bicycle infrastructure. It does infuse my day with freedom during my fixed work hours. In the morning I ride to a nearby restaurant for a tea break. I sometimes ride at a nearby park at lunch time. The lake and park grounds have a trail all the way around and the scenery is great.

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  41. For the past 5 or 6 years commuting for me meant something different everyday, sometimes it meant spending most of the day working on some illustration project ay home and slipping out on my bike in the afternoon to go to Kinko's to print it off, other days it was driving to some plumbing job for somebody or throwing a backpack and a bike into the back of the truck and striking out for Pennsylvania or Ohio to install a Museum exhibit. It was surprising how often I could include a bicycle into it all. Last fall I decided to try to cut my gasoline consumption in half and while I didn't quite achieve that I found it made my life more interesting and fun.

    Now commuting means getting in my truck in the morning and driving 35 miles, spending all morning indoors wishing I was outside and then spending my lunch period trying to chew each bite 30 times and avoiding looking out the window. Then at the end of another 4 hours of the same, driving 35 miles home. I've ridden like 40 miles in the last month. I've quadrupled my weekly gas consumption and I bet I gain 400 pounds in the next year if I keep this up. This kind of commuting is pretty horrid. It doesn't have a very human pace to it and it can feel like I'm actually competing with everyone around me. I forgot what that was like. Oh well, the moneys good...

    Spindizzy

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  42. Commuting for me is the best part of my workday. I work in the operating room and so I have some days when I have a "set schedule" of 7am-3pm, and others when I can go in at noon, and then others when I go to work in the middle of the night. Although my husband and I share a car, I work in downtown Chicago and would never drive or park down there. Luckily I live 2.5 miles from work and biking is the fastest way to arrive, and the most reliable, since I don't have to depend on a bus to not be running late or too soon. The best part for me, is the variety, in the weather and the scenery, the four seasons, seeing the sunrise over Lake Michigan, the beautiful side streets...and depending on the bike, sometimes if I'm done early I'll ride 20 miles (road bike) to my favorite coffee shop, or just take the long way home down some quiet one-way red brick streets in Old Town (Gazelle Solide) :)

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  43. To me commuting just means traveling from home to a destination(s) which is ordinary or routine in location or purpose such as work or school. I bike only about 3 miles one way to my office; though that is going to increase to about 5 1/2 miles in a few weeks :). I don't really have other locations I need to bike to during the day so I'm kind of envious of your opportunities to get out and travel around during your work day.

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  44. @ Velouria:
    "Wait, what?
    What is the word in German?"
    The German word for commuting is "pendeln". People who are living in one town and working in another are called "Pendler".

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  45. To me, “commuting” is a very fraught word, bringing up images of John Cheever-esque suburban train life in and out of New York and Boston. When people say to me, “oh you’re a commuter” I find it a bit dismissive, because it ignores the reality of the immense alert pleasure and mindfulness one feels when riding. But we all have our needs to categorize / be categorized, and certainly, “I am an transportation cyclist” is equally robot-like, very dogmatic [even for me, Master of Dogma].

    I have a freelance existence, and chose it partially to be able to ride my bike; I live in a somewhat rural area (we farm a bit as part of that freelance existence) and have organized my days so I do have to get out on my bike daily. My daily “commuter miles” vary between 10 and 40 very hilly miles; always into town in the mornings for daily, uh, yoga practice, various appointments, banking, hardware store, small construction jobs [toolboxes fit on bike, and also I leave a reasonable set of tools in a central location near my various jobs / have pals with shops I can use, etc], plus school bus pickup or dropoff via tandem. I tend to group my errands of course, so I’m not going back and forth to town 2 or 3 times in a day, as one does in a car; and I likewise group my visits to places further afield, so that if I have to go to the “big city”, 25 miles away, I get everything done in one trip. But the whole living on the bike / “commuting” requires a lot of organization, and patience, and definitely has had an effect of reducing my career trajectory –but it’s been worth it, as I feel my life is far improved in other ways

    Winters are no longer challenging, but something I look forward to (well, I say that now).

    I also ride with a group, for fun, sometimes pacelines, though usually just a chatty bunch going fast, even though we’re “in training” for brevets and d2r2; but all of us have been feeling it’s sort of odd to ride around in this big circle, with no goal at an end or midpoint, ie we’re all “commuters”, but then the exhilaration of NOT having to schlep groceries or feed or tools comes into play, and the pleasure of just seeing the landscape takes over (though that happens when “commuting” as well)

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  46. My commute is an amble upstairs to my studio where I draw pictures and write stories. The reality of living and working here can vary between being an Ivory Tower or Padded Cell.

    This is where the bicycle becomes critical to one's sanity and survival! I've heard it said by novelists that the key to success is 'B.I.C.'... or 'butt in chair'. Yes B.I.C. is great for writing out pages of a novel.

    But I find it's even better to practice B.O.B. 'butt on bicycle'.

    But the very best of all worlds seems to be 'B.O.B.T.C.' or 'butt on bicycle to cafe'.

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  47. "Transmute" is a ready comparison, Cris, as commute's original meaning is to change or exchange. I generally think of the connotation of reduction as well, from the term's application to criminal sentences. These connotations markedly contrast with the term's meaning in this context, which connotes static rigidity. The relevant application may have arisen from the reduced fair paid by a train passenger traveling into the city from a nearby suburb, but the term has come to represent one of the worst aspects of the American worker's existence, the increasingly long travel between home and work, whatever the distance. Implied in a commute is repetition, and imprinted in the American psyche are images of gridlock and rush hour (itself a contradiction of connotations).

    Perhaps what this discussion most clearly highlights is the ability of the bicycle to transmute our experience of commuting, and to commute our term of imprisonment in the steel and concrete cage that the American roadway has become. Inherent in the bicycle as a mode of transportation is its flexibility and maneuverability. We can hop onto the sidewalk or vary our route. We can take a detour just for fun, or slow down to enjoy the scenery. We are more mobile in the landscape, able to sit up in the fresh air and view the full panorama of our surroundings, unimpeded by the confines of car seats and steel framed glass. Even for those who remain tethered to the regimen of a repetitive work commute, and a 9 to 5 desk job, the bicycle allows some breathing room, some echo of the flexibility of the self employed and the telecommuter. Long car commutes undeniably make workers unhappier, even if they spend the same amount of time away from home as a colleague who works longer hours but has a shorter commute. Choosing to use the bike for any type of daily transportation need is a choice to be respected, but Velouria, when others say you don't really have a commute, however they mean it, perhaps they are right, and you should be glad.

    Interestingly, I find that on the occasional day when I work from home or otherwise do not have to go in to my office, I find that I miss the commute. (Though sadly, David, my wife does count any increase in commute time against me!) That morning bike ride, even though short, gets my body moving and prepared to tackle the day. Changing the dreaded work commute into a welcome daily activity is quite a transformation, and a reduction in fare (counting both the physical and monetary costs of other means of transport) that is much appreciated.

    Garth-

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  48. "The Governor of this State hereby commutes your sentence..."

    Seriously, I've been a nine-to-fiver (actually, nine-to-whenever) as well as someone who's worked a few different jobs. Right now, I'm in the latter category, but am working toward becoming a free-lancer.

    One good thing about having a set schedule every day--for me, anyway--was that the structure made it easier to build in a regular time to ride every day, week or whenever. Plus, I didn't have to carry as much stuff with me as I do now.

    On the other hand, being able to ride from one job to another gives cycling more of a role in the structure of my day. When I went to the same place every morning and came home at night, the commute home was like the period at the end of a sentence. On the other hand, the rides between jobs are like commas, dashes and semicolons: They bind everything together. I rather like that.

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  49. I first heard the word commute when I was 9 or 10. I was talking to a school acquaintance and mentioned that I lived in NJ (I went to private school in NYC, and my dad just moved to Hoboken) and the girl a grade older than me said " oh wow, you mean you commute to school". I just nodded and too kit to mean to come from out of state, from one town to another. I also took it to mean a long trip via train or bus, thus not walking distance or a quick subway ride.

    I rarely use the word other than when I lived in NJ and worked in NYC. Although I do tend to think of the term irt biking as another word for transportation riding... I bike to errands. I bike to the train to work. I bike the kids to school. I don't call it commuting, but I resonate with bike commuting as a term now.

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  50. Well I don't like to use the word commute. Commute sounds too much like hard work. So I don't commute I ride or drive my bicycle to work and just about everywhere else. BTW sadly I am very much a novelty at work. Most days at work the bike racks are empty:( Also I have seen many people on bikes but they are pedestrians riding bikes on the sidewalks. We have a cycling team at work but they haul their bikes to work on the back of their "wheelchairs with doors". So I am not a bike commuter I am a novelty act, weird, crazy, rediculous, and several other things depending on the weather.

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  51. For me, commuting connotes a regularity. I have a job that I go to five days a week. I live far enough away that I usually bike to the train station, and then take the train to work. About once a week, I will bike to work.

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  52. Hi Velouria,

    Thanks for the link! Oh, the mobile office was the only way I could get anything done. Imagine only being able to read and write during a small interval in the afternoon when the baby naps (and it takes me at least 30-45 minutes to find "the zone"). I found that leaving the house entirely was much more effective. Since I work from home too I don't have a daily work-commute either. But I certainly have a life-commute, which includes running errands and getting groceries. And as Dexter gets older and older I anticipate we will have activities too.

    Bike commuting to me is using a bicycle as transportation instead of just for recreation.

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  53. picture number 1 is pretty great.

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