Principles of Urban Riding, Part 2: The Need for Riding

In this series of articles on my commuting through the city, I'd like to address the need to ride around the city on a bicycle.

New York City has the highest density of mass transit in the nation. We have more trains, more buses, and more highways than any other city in the US - even Los Angeles. There is certainly no lack of options from getting from Point A to Point B.

So, why ride a bicycle? Cycling provides a number of very real advantages:

* Run time is fairly constant, and agnostic to construction, changes in traffic or routing, due to the bicycle's ability to bypass traffic.
* Wait time is constant, and nearly zero. The bicycle is always ready to go, provided that you keep it in good mechanical condition.
* In comparison to public transit, a trip by bicycle does not require catching any connections or additional waits imposed by transfers.
* The bicycle has the potential to be faster than scheduled public bus service.
* A bicycle is a true door to door, point to point service. There is no walking to or from a station.
* Cycling is certainly less expensive than taking a taxi, and cheaper than public transit, even with a really nice bike.

Let's do a cost analysis. Assuming a $750 bicycle, with about $250 in annual maintenance costs, the two-year total cost of ownership of a bicycle is $1250. If one rides each and every single day, with one round trip, five days per week, the cost is:

2 trips/day * 5 days/week * 52 weeks/year * 2 years = 1040 trips, or $1.20 per trip.

In comparison, an $81 monthly MetroCard pass, assuming 4.5 weeks per month, comes out to $1.80 per ride. The Express bus comes out to about $4 to $5 per ride, and a taxi can cost upwards of $10 per ride.

New York is a special case. A five-mile trip, 20 minutes by bicycle at modest speeds, will get you to most places you need to go. That same five mile trip can take upwards of 45 minutes by public transit. A taxi can get you there in 10 minutes, if you're lucky, but can easily take upwards of 35 minutes.

The bicycle is cheaper, faster, and friendlier than any other form of transit.