One Less Car

One Less Car

-by Andrew Wyllie

The decision by our city council to take the federal grant money and install the sidewalks on Tates Creek Road is a sign of things to come.  It shows that the council is overwhelmingly in favor of improving bike and pedestrian facilities in our city which is an important step in making Lexington a more accessible for the 35% of the population that does not have access to a car as well as more attractive city for the ‘Creative Class’.  In last night’s city council meeting there was a lot of talk about the other 50 or so projects listed in the city’s Bike and Pedestrian plan many of which are already in the planning stages.  Hopefully these projects, which are relatively inexpensive compared to projects like widening a road, will not have to go through the same controversial process that the Tates creek sidewalks went through.

Why are these projects so important?  Lexington is a relatively flat city with fairly temperate weather.  There are many cities around the world that have higher percentages of bike and pedestrian commuters than Lexington that are in much, much colder climates – Madison and Toronto, Canada come to mind as well as a number of European cities.  The advantages of walking or cycling vs using a car are well known: less pollutants, healthier, etc., but what is the advantage of taking your car?  Carrying capacity is one – it’s hard to buy groceries on foot, although many people do use a bike trailer or a wagon for this task.  Speed would be considered another – it’s obviously faster to travel by car than by foot or bike – or is it?  So I took it upon myself to work out the actual costs of walking, biking and driving to school (I’m one of those “non-traditional” students over at UK).  With thousands of students and employees commuting daily to UK, many of them living with two or three miles of campus, I thought this would make an interesting case study.

I’m going to make an assumption that time IS valuable – like time relaxing at home, sitting around Magee’s, or even studying in the library is worth more than the time used to get to these places.  Of course, one could argue that time walking is more valuable than time sitting around in traffic, but it’s hard to place a real value on that. I live in Ashland Park which is about two miles from UK.  I’m also going to assume that a car travels about 25mph in Lexington, that I can bike at about 15mph and that I walk 4mph (4mph is a brisk walk, 3mph is an average walking speed).

First by car, as a student, I would need to park in the the K lot which is on the south side of the football stadium.  Google maps is telling me that it’s about 2.5 miles (7.5 minutes), but assuming normalish traffic from my house that’s got to be closer to about a ten minute drive.  From the K lot, I can take the bus up to the classroom building (Euclid and Rose area) or I can hoof it.  Google has it at about 1.5 miles or a 20 minute walk – total travel time 30 minutes.  I have no clue how long the bus would take, but considering that it goes along Limestone, I would imagine that it would still be at least 10 minutes.  Anyway, you are looking at 20 to 30 minutes.

If I take my bike – it’s 1.5 miles, down to Euclid and straight across in the bike lane, that’s 6 minutes maybe 10 if I get red lights the whole way.  My experience has been that I can get from my couch to my seat in class in about 15 minutes by bike.

Finally if I walk 1.5 miles, it works out to about 25 minutes at a quick pace, 30 minutes in leisure mode (35 if I stop in at Starbucks along the way with the added bonus that I don’t have to mess around trying to get a parking spot in their tiny lot).

So, if the main goal is to get their fast, biking is the best option.  There are plenty of bike racks on campus so parking is not an issue.  If the main reason is to get a bit of a work out (and a six minute bike ride does not really count as much exercise) walking is the way to go.

Costs?  UK parking is $232 a year or very roughly a dollar a day.  5 miles of driving is about a quarter gallon so let’s say fifty cents per day.  Car insurance (if you are a good driver like me) is about $2 a day, the actual cost of the car assuming a $25,000 car (bought cash – so no borrowing costs) and kept for ten years is roughly $7 a day.  So the cost is roughly $10.50 per day, $50.50 a week and assuming 200 days of school – $2100 a year (also not that I’m not including regular maintenance, etc).  Without the cost of the car and insurance, it still works out to $300 a year – and that’s assuming that gas prices don’t go up, and you know they will.  For a bike, a good commuter bike will cost about $600 and will last about 6 years – so $100 a year, and walking, well walking is basically free although you may want to upgrade your shoes to good walking shoes and get a nice warm coat, hat and gloves – but since you would need these items anyway – even if you are driving, there’s not much point including them here.

Lexington is a very walkable and bike-able city and this only becoming more true as facilities are improved.  The weather here is usually very good for walking or biking and the terrain is fairly flat.  It’s great that the city is supporting the need for better facilities and I look forward to the day when more people consider leaving their car at home and either bike or walk to work.  Not only is it cheaper, better for the environment and better for your health, it can also be a lot faster.