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Commuter challenged

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Last week I attempted, for the first time, to participate in the Commuter Challenge. More people than I expected haven’t heard of this before, but the idea is that, for a week, you try to get to work by some way other than by driving yourself there. As part of the company “Green Team”, I felt I should try to participate, even though I really like the convenience of driving myself to work and back.

I don’t live far from work — Googlemaps reports that it’s 3.7 km, one way. Cycling would be the most logical alternative mode of transport, likely not taking much longer than the drive in rush hour.

The problem is, I’m not much of a cyclist. I don’t feel in shape for the activity, I do not like driving on the sides of city streets, I don’t want to feel sweaty at work all day, I don’t want to feel obliged to have to bike home again if it’s raining by then.

Next up: the bus. Grand River Transit has developed a new EasyGo system that is pretty cool. You enter your start and end locations and times; it gives you the full bus route to take. Unfortunately, that also revealed a slightly absurd, 30-40 minute itinerary, with one or two transfers.

Telework was an option. While I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to work at home the whole week, I did have a laptop and a method of connecting to the work network, so that was my method for a couple of the days. For the others? I finally went with “get a ride with husband” (which he helpfully pointed out just meant that he had to drive a little farther before going to work), combined with walking. Which took me 40 minutes.

Happy news was that I did get my exercise in, and on days I probably otherwise would not have. The weather proved to be cooperative — didn’t get rained on, wasn’t ever excessively hot or cold. Except for the one spot with the pond Canada geese and their chicks, and the (live) groundhog I saw one day, the walk route itself was rather uninspiring, even boring. But the iPod proved a helpful tool for dealing with that.

The challenges? Well, it made doing errands pretty tricky. Cats ended up chowing down on yellowfish tuna in olive oil because I wasn’t about to cart home a bunch of can cat food from the store near the office, as I usually do. Telework Monday I drove myself to a medical appointment and back; otherwise I would have missed too much work time. Right after walk-home Tuesday I got into my car for an event in downtown. Though the bus route to there was very good, the bus options home were not. Wine bottles to return to the Beer Store near work? That didn’t happen either.

I also had to really downsize the amount of stuff I normally carry. For the most part, this just proves I normally carry way more than I need. But keeping a bag lunch at proper temperature and weight — tricky. The glass bottled water I used as an alternative to plastic? Too heavy to consider. Carrying my laptop and accessories and papers so I can work effectively at home? Not practical — hence my using the ride option as well.

So, unfortunately, I’m unlikely to stay with regular alternative commuting options. But I will work at home more often, as possible. It’s good to know that walking — and even transit — are actually possible on days the car is in for servicing, or whatever. And walking made it clear that plenty of people deal with the busy city streets by riding their bikes on the sidewalk, so though you’re not supposed to do that, it maybe makes biking an option.

It was good to try it out. If you didn’t participate this year, look out for out next time. Gas ain’t getting any cheaper…

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