For many of us, a commute is a reality of life, whether it’s to work or the local shops for our everyday necessities. Most of us don’t have the good fortune to live close to where we work and need to shop. If you can’t travel by car, here is a guide of alternative transportation methods, so you can get where you need to go.
Should I start riding a bike?
Bicycles are an eco-conscious, healthy, and affordable option for transportation. Once you buy the bike, you don’t need to worry about expensive fuel, maintenance, or car insurance. After all, you power the bike yourself.
Cities are increasingly becoming more bike-friendly, adding new bike lanes and cracking down on dangerous driver behavior threatening cyclists. Fortunately, these steps are making the streets safer for those of us who don’t ride a bike, too.
A common choice for cyclists is an electric bicycle. You can generally fold the bikes in half for easy storage in seconds and ride them as traditional bikes. For added convenience, some electric bikes charge your smartphone and come with companion apps to track your distance or even turn on built-in LED lights to ride in style.
If you’re nervous about purchasing a bicycle because of cost, especially when some bicycles can now cost thousands of dollars, look into whether your city has a network of public bikes you can rent. Cities big and small, including New York, Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco, have bicycle stands with bikes available for rent, and there are now apps that have “dockless” bikes. These bike-sharing apps can help you find a bicycle that’s closest to you and can be more convenient. Often, there are also monthly or annual pass options suited for more regular riders, which could cut down your commute cost as well. And with docking stations located throughout bustling business areas of downtown, they offer a convenient alternative to hunting down an open parking space.
- Pros of commuting on a bicycle:
- Many cities are limiting through traffic on some main streets and expanding their network of bike lanes to make cycling safer
- Healthy for you and the environment
- Can be more affordable: you can purchase your own bicycle cheaply or rent a shared bike to keep costs low
- Cons of commuting on a bicycle:
- Regular car traffic can be dangerous, especially in congested areas
- Your office or home may not have space for you to store your bike securely
- Some bicycles, including electric bikes, may be expensive to purchase or maintain over time
Should I buy a moped to commute?
Mopeds often bring to mind driving along some idyllic European coastline, but they can be a great way to get around here in the U.S., too. Like bicycles, mopeds can keep commute costs low, as they’re cheaper to purchase and maintain than cars.
If you’ve never driven a moped, companies now make it easy to start riding. In some cities, app-based moped rentals are becoming commonplace and usually cost just a few dollars. And there’s no need to own a helmet for the occasional ride — these companies often provide helmets in the cargo trunk, ready for riders!
- Pros of commuting on a moped:
- Can be more affordable: typically cost a few dollars to unlock and ride
- Ready-to-ride with helmets often readily available
- Faster than biking and less exerting on your body
- Cons of commuting on a moped:
- Congested streets can be dangerous or scary, especially for new moped drivers
- Limited storage space for your bag, briefcase, or shopping bags
Is public transportation safe for commutes?
Public transportation, whether by bus, rail, or subway, can be a convenient way to get to work and around town. In many major cities and suburbs, it is the most common method of transportation. Generally, costing just a few dollars, it is also the most cost-effective. Plus, when taken instead of driving a car, public transport can be a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and reduce the effects of climate change on the environment.
- Pros of commuting on public transportation:
- Generally the most cost effective: fares can range from a few cents to a few dollars
- You can be more productive while commuting: multi-tasking gives you the opportunity to read your emails or a book
- Can be less stressful: you don’t need to worry about traffic because someone else is driving
- Cons of commuting on public transportation:
- Can be very crowded and uncomfortable during peak morning and early evening commute times
- Wait times can be long because of COVID-19, as some agencies have cut frequencies of service
- Limited personal space or social distancing when crowded
- Cleanliness may be an issue in heavily frequented routes, stations, or stops
Should I continue commuting by driving?
While carpooling may be less common because of health concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, many car owners are finding more value in their vehicles now more than ever. Driving with your family or people who you live with can help alleviate some cleanliness and hygiene concerns.
- Pros of commuting by driving:
- Convenience of getting on the road straight from your home
- If you’re able to commute with a partner, friend or coworker, you can take advantage of the carpool lane for a potentially quicker ride
- Could allow you to better maintain social distancing and personal space
- Cons of commuting by driving:
- Heavy traffic or accidents on the road can slow you down and stress you out
- Driving is a significant contributor to climate change
- Gas prices and car maintenance can be costly
- Car insurance can be expensive and is another added cost to owning a car
If you find yourself driving your car less during the week or with a changed routine, Metromile’s pay-per-mile car insurance could be a great way to save money. When you drive less, you can save more because your bill is based on the miles you drive.
Demi Greco is a communications specialist, plant mom, and under-baked cookie connoisseur from San Francisco.