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How To Get To Work Without A Car (Save Money AND Time on Your Daily Commute?)

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The world has changed. Most climate scientists say humans are causing global warming, and that issue is now pressing. War has sent fuel prices soaring.

With all this in mind, many people are wondering how to get to work without a car. What are the choices? We explore the alternatives.

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Alternative Ways To Get To Work (Without A Car)

Traveling to work without a car has many potential benefits, whether they’re health, economic, or environmental benefits. Sometimes it’ll be all three. Below, we discuss the merits of various travel modes.

1. Bike Commuting

You’ll forgive us for putting cycling at the top of our list. We have a vested interest, but it’s more than that.

In terms of intensity and burning calories, cycling is more beneficial than any other mode of transport bar running.

A great thing about bike commuting is that it can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be. You can buy an e-bike and do zero work on full throttle (not in the EU), or you can use a commute to train as a competitive cyclist.

Health Benefits

Cycling builds your aerobic fitness rapidly, especially at first. You’ll become healthier, which may also trigger healthier habits in other areas such as diet and sleep.

Bike commuting rather than driving decreases the likelihood of various undesirable conditions like heart disease and diabetes. You’ll lose weight, especially if you also take a complementary interest in your diet.

Environmental Benefits

With a traditional manual bike, cycling has no harmful impact on the environment.

Okay, so the bike has to be made, which consumes some energy and uses various resources, but it’s infinitely preferable to causing daily harm with a car.

Some bike equipment isn’t environmentally friendly, in truth. Consider the commuter bike helmet made of non-biodegradable materials. Manufacturers scare people into replacing helmets every 3-5 years when tests indicate they can last much longer.

Fundamentally, cycling rather than using your car is an environmentally friendly thing to do. If you’re also a vegan or vegetarian, bike parts like saddles and handlebar tape are readily available in vegan form.

What To Wear?

One aspect of bike commuting that puts people off is not knowing what to wear. Many people don’t want to “look” like a cyclist with all the lycra gear. This is an unfounded fear, as there is a lot of casual cycling wear on the market.

In the summer, you could wear something like Merino wool, which wicks moisture away from your body and minimizes odor. If you ride very casually or sit on an e-bike in throttle mode, you don’t need any special clothes at all.

Is It Expensive?

Bike commuting is so beneficial that some governments will help you buy a bike.

Even without any financial help, you don’t need an expensive bike to cycle to work on. Indeed, you shouldn’t ride to work on a flashy bike unless you have somewhere to secure it all day.

A secondhand, mechanically sound bike is good enough for typical commutes. Used steel bikes are a good bet as long as they’re not rusty. Steel frames last indefinitely.

Male Commuting On A City BikePin

2. Walking To Work

Unless you walk at Olympic speeds, walking is a far gentler mode of transport than riding a manual bike. That being said, it’s still a useful form of light exercise that helps to build or maintain your aerobic fitness.

The average commute is only a few miles, so many people could walk to work in under an hour if they felt so inclined. Being realistic, you’re probably not going to walk to work if it’s more than 3-4 miles away.

Free Exercise

Many cyclists will tell you that cycling is an expensive hobby. It doesn’t have to be expensive if you only commute on a bike, but walking is free. The only thing it may cost you is an extra pair of shoes or two per year.

Will I Get To Work On Time?

Most people walk at speeds of 2.5 to 4 mph. If you’re fit with long legs, you might go a bit faster. You’ll soon know how long it takes and it’ll become routine.

If you’re about to walk to work for the first time, you can use Google Maps or similar to estimate the walking time. This will always be at an average pace, which you may exceed. Don’t put yourself under pressure by not leaving home on time.

People who live quite far from work may opt to use multiple modes of transport and occasionally walk home. The homeward journey has the obvious benefit of not usually requiring punctuality.

Health Benefits of Walking

As with cycling or any physical mode of transport, walking is good for you mentally as well as physically. It reduces levels of stress hormones in the body like cortisol or adrenaline. Exposure to natural light is also thought to help combat depression.

Most health authorities recommend that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Notably, walking slower than 2.5 mph does not count as moderate intensity, so that’s a minimum pace to aim for.

Office Worker Walking To WorkPin
Courtesy: Brian Evans on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

3. Running Or Jogging To Work

Even more strenuous than biking, on average, is running. It’s more intense and burns more calories unless, of course, you’re comparing a slow jogger to a cycling crit racer.

There are some downsides to running. It’s high-impact exercise versus the low impact of cycling, so there’s a greater risk of muscle and joint injury. And it’ll be hard to arrive at work without being sweaty, so you’re more likely to need wash facilities at work.

Running Is Faster

Yes, it’s a given. Running is faster than walking, no matter how fast you walk. Thus, you’ll be able to leave home earlier. Perhaps not much earlier, though, because you’ll need to clean up at the other end.

Again, you also have the option of only running home. Then you’ll be able to bathe at leisure. You might walk to work and run home.

Health Benefits Of Running

Running even the briefest distances will have a drastic effect on your fitness if you’ve been living a sedentary lifestyle. You’ll notice perceptible differences within days in the distances you can run without stopping.

Of course, running has all the health benefits of walking and cycling. It’s more intense than walking, so there’s no danger of falling below the “moderate” threshold.

Running and cycling have a way of revealing health issues you never knew you had. This sounds ominous on the face of it, but you may be able to address health problems that had hitherto gone unnoticed.

Because of the above, it’s never a good idea to dive in at the deep end and attempt to do more than your body is capable of. Build up running distances gradually. Walk some of the way and run for brief spells. And not because you’ve left home too late.

It’s never a bad idea to buy a fitness watch or monitor your heart rate. You’ll become accustomed to seeing certain numbers, hence you’ll also recognize abnormalities.

Hot weather makes your heart beat faster and your body work harder to maintain its core temperature. Don’t run in extreme heat unless you’re acclimatized to it. The same goes for high-intensity cycling. Heat exhaustion is worth avoiding.

Video: How To Run Commute

4. Public Transport

A global pandemic made public transport unpopular for a while, but it remains a far better choice than driving your car. The reason is obvious: a bus or a train does less harm to the environment than countless cars.

Now, the above is a bit of a blanket statement. The more people there are on a bus or a train, the more environmentally friendly it becomes. Even so, there is never a moment where it’s more eco-friendly to take your car and travel alone.

Studies show that it’s always better to take a bus or a train than drive alone. The bigger a vehicle you drive, the worse a choice it becomes to hop into the car. The same is patently true for any short journey you could make another way.

Lack Of Reliability

Yes, buses and trains (especially trains) are often unreliable. And that adds stress to your working day or may even cost you money.

One way to offset this is to commute by various modes of transport. That way, you expose yourself to fewer problems. The more flexible you become and the more modes of transport you use, the less you can be held hostage by one unreliable service.

If you are limited in the ways you can get to work, you can still console yourself with the fact that you’re doing your bit for the environment. In an ideal world, public transport would improve as our need for it grows. It’s unlikely any time soon, but possible.

More Relaxing

When things go according to plan, traveling by bus or train is far more relaxing than wedging yourself into rush hour traffic and getting stuck in long queues. You can switch off and read a book, listen to music, or close your eyes.

5. Electric Scooters

Depending on where in the world you live, e-scooters are now “everywhere”. Whereas youngsters used to ride low-powered 50cc mopeds or gas-powered scooters, now they’re often on e-scooters with no license typically required.

Some older people ride e-scooters, too. You can ride one to work and back provided the distance isn’t great. Even modest scooters have a range of a few miles, and the ones with a longer range are heavier.

Are e-scooters eco-friendly?

Not much research has yet been done on the eco-friendliness of e-scooters. The overall conclusion of one study on shared e-scooters is that they’re not. In many cases, they’re used to replace journeys normally undertaken by foot or bicycle.

Much of the CO2 impact of an e-scooter is, however, related to materials and manufacturing, according to the study linked above. Only a small amount of the burden appears to come from recharging the scooter.

Making scooters that last longer, then, is a way to combat the environmental cost of their manufacturing. They are useful in weaning modern generations off of gas-vehicle dependency and moving towards cleaner transport solutions.

The eco arguments that exist regarding scooters also apply to e-bikes. With e-bikes, though, there’s an element of exercise that helps people to stay healthier. This reduces the burden on health systems and other resources.

Any Health Benefits On E-Scooters?

From a health perspective, e-scooters aren’t as ineffective as you may think. You do need a certain amount of strength to balance on an e-scooter, so you are strengthening core muscles to a degree.

Some online sources vaguely reference a study from the University of Brighton, claiming that e-scooters burn as many calories as walking. But this is likely to be a study on the physiological response to manual scooters, not e-scooters.

Walking, cycling, and running all have a significant effect on your fitness and health. An e-scooter is more beneficial than sitting on a bus or train.

Read more: Electric bike vs scooter

6. Regular Kick Scooters

The study linked above found that the body’s metabolic response to riding a regular scooter at 3.72 mph was equal to walking at around the same speed. Naturally, if you scoot faster, the corresponding activity becomes more rigorous.

What this proves is that riding to work on a regular scooter would qualify as moderate exercise, even if you didn’t overtake all pedestrians. You’d have to be moving at 7.45 mph before scooting was officially vigorous exercise.

Will I Look Silly?

In some countries, adults commonly ride kick scooters to work. Anecdotal evidence suggests the e-scooter has taken over, but a regular scooter is usually a lighter, more portable mode of transport.

Human Power

Naturally, a regular scooter trumps an e-scooter for eco-friendliness. You provide all the power while enjoying the momentum that wheels bring.

7. Skateboard

A skateboard is a pretty radical way to get to work. You’re unlikely to consider this unless you’re already a seasoned rider, but the benefits are considerable.

For a start, skateboarders travel at speeds of between 6 and 13 miles per hour. The low end of these speeds is faster than a brisk walker, and the high end is faster than any runner other than Mo Farrah.

Skateboarding Weight Loss?

Most skateboarders burn between 300 to 500 calories in an hour on a skateboard. This is more than you’d typically burn walking, but less than cyclists or runners. It’s a bit more than playing golf, but that doesn’t get you to work.

Skateboard Types

There are several types of skateboards, and some are more suitable for commuting than others.

A longboard is good for sustaining momentum, and that makes it ideal for long, smooth rides or commutes.

If you’re riding through busy pedestrian areas and need to make sudden stops, a cruiser board is good.

These boards are distinct from skateboards, which you can also go to work on, but skateboards are designed for tricks and are harder to ride.

8. Roller Skates / Roller Blades

Can you skate to work? For sure you can. You can get to work on roller skates or roller blades and have a lot of fun doing it.

Roller Skates vs Roller Blades

Roller blades (aka inline skates) are easier to learn than roller skates and faster. Roller skates have a brake at the front and on roller blades, the brake is at the rear.

For a commute, roller blades are the way to go. Roller skates are more commonly used indoors.

Exercise Value

Rollerblading burns a lot of calories, so it’s an excellent way to build fitness. It’s right up there with running and fast cycling in intensity.

Skating Cons & Pros

Roller skating or rollerblading in the rain becomes hazardous because wet, slippery surfaces vastly increase your risk of falling. A bike is safer in that regard.

Visibility is an issue when rollerblading in darkness, too, and not just your visibility. It becomes harder to see cracks or bumps on the riding surface.

Skating into work is better during summer when you may commute each way in good light. Of course, skates are highly portable, so it’s easy to switch commuting modes if necessary. They’re also cheaper and less likely to be stolen than a bike.

9. Hoverboard

Even more quirky as a commuting method is a hoverboard. For those of you that don’t know, it’s one of those motorized personal vehicles where your feet stay adjacent to each other, and you lean forward or back to control direction.

Hoverboards look hard to ride and balance yourself on. But that’s not their real problem for commuting. You ideally need perfectly smooth surfaces to ride them on, as a bump can upset your balance and potentially make you fall off.

Another downside to hoverboards is that they’re not that quick. They might be faster than walking to work—just. Are there any benefits at all? Yes.

Hoverboard Fitness

Hoverboards may look like an easy option, but you burn a lot of calories merely by staying balanced. You’ll engage various leg muscles and core muscles (abdomen, back) and increase your heart rate.

Riding a hoverboard can burn up 250-300 calories in 30 minutes. That’s more than walking at an average pace, though not as much as running or cycling with any gusto.

You need something more intense if you’re aiming for high fitness levels. But a hoverboard helps to keep your fitness ticking over.

Is Hovering A Bad Idea?

Hoverboards can be used for commutes, though you might end up regretting it if the route you take to work isn’t smooth. They’ll typically have a max speed of about 7.5 to 8 mph and a range of 8 to 12 miles.

Some hoverboards are not meant to be ridden in the rain. A minimum IPX4 rating is advisable for riding under average rainfall.

10. Work From Home

Okay, fair point: you’re not really “getting to work” by staying at home. But the pandemic has shown us that working from home is viable for many lines of work. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of trust as to whether it’s allowed or not.

It’s worth trying to convince your boss or HR department that you could do your work from home. Especially if other employees in your firm already enjoy this privilege.

Environmental Value

The environmental benefits of people working from home in large numbers are substantial. It reduces carbon emissions, use of fossil fuels, and pollution. For a while during Covid-19, we glimpsed a quieter, less disruptive way of living.

You also get to lie in a bit longer every day when you work from home, but you still need to get your exercise from somewhere. Why not a bike ride at lunchtime?

Glenn H
Glenn H
When I’m not contributing articles to Bike Push, I can often be found cycling on the rural roads around me. If I can help you benefit from bicycling in some small way, I’ll consider it a win.

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