I spend a lot of time not driving a car. On the days I go to work in Brooklyn, I spend nearly four hours not driving a car to get there and back.
My commute to work:
- 10 minute walk to train
- 70 minutes on train
- 30 minutes on Citibike from Grand Central Station to Brooklyn
- 10 minutes walking
= 2 hours of commuting
Another way to look at it:
- 10 minutes of warm up exercise
- 70 minutes of focused work, reading, and writing time.
- 30 minutes of cardio
- 10 minute cool-down
= 50 minutes of exercise and 70 minutes getting work done
What would you do with an extra two hours per day? Screen-free advocates frequently use data on how many hours a day the average person watches TV or uses a device. What if we did the same with cars? How many hours a week do you spend in your car? Could you swap out any of those hours for a walk instead? Could you eliminate a scheduled activity that forces you to lose yet another hour in driving purgatory?
Maybe we should be setting a budget for how we spend our time, like we do with our money. This includes not spending our “disposable time” sitting in traffic, looking for parking, or attending children’s birthday parties.
In this opinion piece in the New York Times from May 2016, the author tracked for one year how she spent her time as mom with four kids. Her experiment was in response to a “Gallup poll that found that 61 percent of working Americans said they did not have enough time to do the things they wanted to do.” It will come as no surprise, but I really liked that story. Her follow-up analysis is also worth a read.
For my personal time budget I consider all the hours I have in my day. It happens to be fifteen (15) hours. I go to bed between 9:30-10:30 and am awakened by a second grader pleading for his mother’s companionship at 7:00 am. I know people who don’t love sleep the way I do. You people probably squeeze out an extra three hours by staying up until 1:00am. You get THREE more hours of AWAKE TIME than I do! Although if you were riding you bike as much as I am, you’d might be too pooped to stay up that late.
When I look at my 15 hours of awake time each day, I calculate if I am “spending” any of my “time fund” doing things I don’t want to do? We often assume that our time is wasted on our devices, but maybe much more of our time is wasted getting to and from places in cars.
“The price of anything is the amount of life that you exchange for it,” is how someone on the internet paraphrased Henry David Thoreau. What he really said was, “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”
Now that I rarely spend any time in a car, I fully appreciate how much that time feels like lost time.