Before I had my son, I left my car at home as much as possible. My house was a reasonable 4.5 miles away from work, which was part of the reason we bought a starter house in our neighborhood (it’s now a little under 6 miles). I regularly biked/bused/walked/ran to and from work (even occasionally in rain and snow), though not nearly as often as I could have. We live at the top of a 500′ hill and that elevation gain kicked my butt and convinced me to take my car way too many times.
Flash forward to life with a toddler in tow. The first few years as a new mom were so overwhelming to me that the idea of making my commute longer/harder didn’t even enter my thought process.
As my son has gotten older and life started to feel more manageable, I started thinking every once in a while about trying an alternative commute again, but every time I looked at distances and childcare drop off logistics, I would decide it was too complicated and table the idea for later.
In the meantime, our area has gotten more and more dense, and traffic has continually gotten worse. My six mile commute, which is a 12 minute drive in open traffic, can be a half hour or more during rush hour. While that isn’t a long commute compared to some, it definitely starts to drag when you’re crawling along at 5 MPH.
And then about a month ago, MrMoneyMustache wrote a blog post about a guy in Houston, Texas who bike commutes every day, even when it’s 100 degrees outside. This of course started quite a few conversations online about how to make the bike commute work, and I started thinking again on how to ditch my car commute.
To be perfectly honest, riding a bike, especially up a steep hill, is not my favorite thing to do. But running is. I’ve managed to squeeze in 2-3 runs a week (usually 2-5 miles), but it hadn’t occurred to me to combine them with my commute. This time around though, I was determined to ditch my car at least once a week.
And so began my weekly run commute.
Tuesday afternoons I pick my son up from daycare (3 miles, mostly on a lovely gravel trail) and then he and I hop on the bus and head home. The bus drops us about 3/4 of a mile from our house, and we get a bonus walk through the woods on our way home, looking at birds and plants and snacking on edible berries.
Wednesday mornings my husband takes my son to my mom’s for the day, and I take off for work when they leave (6 mile run). My car is at work where I left it, and I drive home that afternoon.
Leaving my car at work has been a great part of getting in the habit of running in the mornings because I don’t have the option of sleeping in and driving my car in later instead. The closest bus stop is about 3/4 of a mile from my house, so if I have to get up and walk that distance anyway, I may as well pull my running shoes on and get out the door on my run.
I’ve since run the numbers, and as it turns out, running or taking the bus saves money over driving, even for a short commute. While the savings aren’t staggering, it’s that extra boost I sometimes need to run instead of just taking the bus, which is way better for my health as well.
This has been our routine for a month now, and I have to say my son loves it as much as I do. He loves riding the bus and gets excited for our Tuesday “adventures” home.
I have worried about how an alternative commute would take time away from him, but I now realize that I haven’t lost any time at all. In fact, I have gained the time I would normally be in my car. I had been running those days anyway, and now I’m actually getting somewhere.
Sometimes we head straight home after I pick him up, and sometimes we take our time making our way back. We have to take two buses home, so usually we just take the first one and then go get ice cream/head to the park/go into Goodwill for some new books. By getting out of the car and taking the slow, easy way home, our afternoon becomes an adventure instead of a commute.
Heading home Tuesdays now isn’t just about getting home but about getting out and doing something fun together.
Getting out of the car and saving money and gas is just an extra bonus.