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Bicycles Are For People Who Can’t Be Late 12


Businessman in Amsterdam – Photo courtesy of Mikael Colville-Andersen 

Bicycles may be a healthy way to get around a city, helping to reduce traffic congestion and pollution. But they are often the fastest and most reliable way to get around a city too.

On Tuesday I had a client meeting downtown Toronto at 3PM. The client office is 3.5km from my home. By bicycle, I would normally leave my home 15-20 minutes before the meeting, and I would seldom need to worry about being late.

This time I opted to take public transit, since my primary bicycle was taken from me two weeks ago after I foolishly left it overnight on a busy street with only the rear wheel lock engaged.

So I gave myself a bit extra time – leaving home at 2:30PM – a full 30 minutes before my meeting. Two streetcars passed by me, but both were short turning just a couple blocks down the street. By now it was 2:45PM and I was still standing at the streetcar stop without a streetcar in sight.

Since there were no bike share stations nearby I decided the only way I was going to make this meeting on time is if I took a taxi. So I jumped in the first taxi I saw and arrived at the meeting 13 minutes later at a cost of $13.75 (plus tip), with a couple minutes to spare before my meeting.

If the meeting was just one hour later, I would have been stuck in a taxi in rush hour traffic, and I would have no doubt been late for the meeting.

Contrast Tuesday’s meeting with today. I had a meeting at 9:30AM this morning at an office 5.5km from my home. This time I pulled out my large cargo bike because I didn’t want a repeat of Tuesday.

I ended up leaving my home at 9:09AM, arriving at the office at 9:30AM. 21 minutes to pedal 5.5km.

This made me realize that in this city – and many other cities of similar size – there are only two reliable methods of transportation that can consistently transport you to a meeting on-time: Bicycling and Walking.

Walking is normally only feasible for shorter distances, so it limits the radius in which you can reasonably travel.

Thus, bicycling is the only method of transportation available for people who can’t afford to be late. Other modes of transportation will most likely get you to your destination, but not in a consistent and predictable fashion.

James D. Schwartz is the Editor of The Urban Country and is based in Toronto, Canada. You can contact James at or follow him on Twitter.

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12 thoughts on “Bicycles Are For People Who Can’t Be Late

  1. John Rawlins Mar 29,2013 10:01 am

    When people ask me why I use a bike I always reply: ‘You know, I envy you. I’d just love to able to go around by car. The thing is… I’m just too busy and I can’t ever find the time’. On hearing this, people normally squint a little and turn their heads slightly to one side.

  2. Bill Walsh Mar 29,2013 10:10 am

    Serena Williams proved this point the other day in Miami.

  3. Mark Skrzypczyk Mar 29,2013 10:21 am

    Have to fully agree and much like you if I can guesstimate a distance (either in my head on via Google Maps) I can normally work out my travel time +/- 5 mins when going via bike. Surely journey time reliability should be the best indicator of travel modes in a given area?

  4. Robert Davison Mar 29,2013 10:41 am

    Even in smaller cities this works the same way. I am 11km from one of my key destinations. It takes me 20 minutes to drive that distance if traffic is good plus a ten minute walk from where I have to park the car (and PAY to leave it there). With the bike it takes me 35 minutes and can park right outside the building for free. So who’s crazy?

  5. Dave H Mar 29,2013 10:14 pm

    Not having owned a car full time since 1976. I found that after 6 months of inheriting my late father’s car I was full of delight when I sold it. Others report similar elation.

    With the bike, and cycle friendly shops I have made 5 calls to collect things in 30 minutes in Central Glasgow, between 16.30 and 17.00 on a working day, when it can often take 20-30 minutes to get from a parking space on to the near gridlocked motorway.

    It takes between 6 and 8 minutes to get from my front door on to the platform for a train, if using taxis we’d need to book for at least 30 minutes earlier, and you can forget the idea of using buses. I’ve cut 30-60 minutes from rail journeys by the simple option of riding between nearby stations, making connections that the official timetable and thinking are blind to.

  6. Hamilton Matters Mar 31,2013 9:51 am

    It took 45+ min to ride two buses up the hill to work in Hamilton. And 45 min to ride the HSR home. (Even longer if a bus is full or out of service or late!) When I switched to a bicycle, I got to work in under 30 min and rode downhill to my home in close to 20 minutes. This was prime reason I first switched to bicycling to work: to avoid public transit. And I saved $5/day in bus fair.

  7. Har Davids Apr 1,2013 5:30 am

    Weather permitting, I use my bike for distances up to 10 km. Not having a car makes choices on modes of transport very easy; as soon as there’s a car you can use any time, there’ll be plenty of ‘reasons’ to use it, even for running a quick errand to the shop around the corner. It’s funny that even quite smart people can convince themselves that having a car and using it all the time is a sensible thing to do. It can’t be the status-thing any more with everybody and his dog having a set of wheels?

  8. Har Davids Apr 7,2013 3:52 am

    Could we please stop talking about businessmen on bicycles? The man in the photo is wearing a suit, as I, and a lot of other people, do occasionally. Over here, we wear the clothes we like or need, which doesn’t say anything about occupation, hobbies or other preferences.

  9. Octavian Apr 11,2013 3:55 pm

    I’m in Kitchener, ON and these are my commute times:

    Car commute = 20-30 minutes one way
    Bike commute = 40-50 minutes one way
    Bus commute = 50+ minutes one way

    I have yet to get the motivation to bike in the winter, so I leave that to the summer months. Even then I sometimes get lazy and take the car.

    I do get your point though. In a city like Toronto, driving a car is usually counter-productive.

  10. Ryan Good May 30,2013 8:27 pm

    This reminds me of something that happened to me years ago, when I first moved to Portland. I moved here for work, and briefly rented a room from a coworker while I looked for a new place. He was an commuted by bike occasionally, but more often drove, whereas I was a full time bike commuter. One morning, as we were both getting ready to leave, I asked him if we was going to ride in that day. “Can’t today man- I have a meeting so I’m in a hurry.” As it happened, we left the driveway at the exact same time- him in his Audi, me on my old beater commuter bike. I rode the 5.5 miles to our office, locked up my bike, bought coffee at the coffee shop in the lobby of our office building, walked up the steps to the 7th floor of our office building, sat down at my desk, logged in to my computer, and started checking my e-mail just in time to see him frantically rushing in the door. I’d arrived a solid ten minutes before him.

  11. Amanda Jun 22,2013 3:31 pm

    Ummmm.. arriving at 9:31 for a meeting at 9:30 is late. I’m sure it didn’t matter too much, but still.

    Anything past 9:25 would be considered late.

  12. Robert Jarman Sep 22,2015 7:01 pm

    Get a plug in chainlock so you can secure your bike with the wheel lock and to the fixed object, if you cannot take it inside with you.

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