Saturday, July 12, 2008

Just Don't Have the Time?

I read, with interest, the comments to a post from new bike commuter John B. In it, a woman explained that one of the reasons her husband had given up commuting by bike was the time the 20 mile round trip took out of their lives. Now, I don’t know the woman or her husband and I don’t want it to seem like I was dogging on them when I added a comment quoting the often mentioned statistic:

“According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year).”

The comment I read was close on the tails of a conversation I had with someone the night before, where they told me they would never have the extra time to ride on errands rather than drive. That person then turned to talk to another parent about several reality shows that she’s following.

Um, yeah.

Disclosure: I too have wasted time watching TV recently. After a long day, it feels good to just plop down and zone out. As I turn the darned thing off I regret that I wasted that precious time and promise myself that I’ll not do it again … but, it’s a hard habit to break.

I should know better; my degree is in radio and television and to this day (what, 28 years later?) I remember a lecture, and the chapter it was based on, discussing the concept of L.O.P. We don’t watch programs, we watch television. When the box gets turned on we scan around for the Least Objectionable Program and stay with it until it becomes boring or objectionable and then we scan again.

I’ll try to do better.

Wow, I got off track. My point was, if the average person watches TV for 4 hours a day, they can afford to drop one of those hours in favor of the increased time riding a bike would take.

One last point, a year ago on the Presentation Zen blog, the author had a picture of his hotel room. He was working on a book at the time and one of the things I noticed in the picture was the hand printed sign he had taped over the TV screen: “TV SUCKS.” Agreed.

Okay, I lied – this is my last point … I’m reading another book by Steve Allen and am reminded of a story that came over the AP News Wire at a radio station I was working at in the mid 90’s. I was so impressed with the story that I made note of it in my Franklin Planner and still have it:

(AP News story) Steve Allen says he can write books and do TV shows and get all his shopping done and still have time to do volunteer work, because he doesn't waste time. Allen says he "gets a fresh delivery of 24 hours every morning," and by not wasting time, he has three or four extra hours to work.

Hmmm, three or four extra hours…


Noah said...

Maybe I have it better than most, but I have a Library, a grocery store, my bank, a post office, and a significant pile of bars, shops and restaurants within ONE MILE of my place right now. I'm not in an urban core. I'm in the suburbs.

Those places that are less than a mile away? I can actually get there, get my business done, and get home just as fast as I could by car, often faster for the closer places. Heck, if the post office is busy, the parking space I find might not be much closer than my apartment.

Extend that out to two miles, and options open up like you wouldn't imagine. Travel time is certainly going to take longer by bike than by car for these trips, but not by a significant margin -- only 7-10 minutes longer at most. Four grocery stores and the county's most popular shopping "maul", not to mention literally hundreds of shops are within a 2 mile bike ride.

Of course, it's hard to bring home that new 64-inch HDTV from Best Buy in a backpack.

Travel by bicycle really doesn't take as long as some believe.

John B. said...

Thanks visiting my place and for the plug here.

I know Ashley pretty well (she is a former student of mine); in her defense, I'll say that she and her husband don't strike me as the couch-potato types. I think they feel a bit atomized as a family (they have a young daughter as well): they don't have much time together as a family, and Ashley at least seems to fear the loss of family time that serious commitment to cycling would take. Moreover, her husband had had that accident with a car--a hit-and-run--that still, apparently, makes him wary. Your larger point, though, is well taken: the vast majority of us have plenty of time that we spend doing, basically, nothing, that cycling would not only fill but fill beneficially.

I'm reminded of a couple of passages in Walden where Thoreau describes conversations he had with various people about his experiment in living. One young told Thoreau he would like to live that way "if he had the means" (he seemed to think Thoreau wasn't working to pay his way when he needed to); a poor family Thoreau talked to became disillusioned with his way of living when he told them that he ate almost no meat--they insisted on having meat 3 times a day, despite the expense. Thoreau's basic point in his book is that we can either just sort of fall into our living patterns or we can "live life deliberately." Cycling has a way of helping clear the decks of our lives in a way that few activities do.

What Noah describes is indeed ideal. Except for the grocery store, I have just about everything I'd want or need within a mile or a mile and a half of where I live. I'm not sure where Ashley lives, but I do know that some of Wichita's suburbs and ex-burbs are rather backwaterish in their quality: people there basically watch TV and sleep and have to go elsewhere for sustenance of whatever sort.

Anyway. I've prattled on too long. Thanks again for dropping by my place; I look forward to visiting here and rummaging around your archives a bit.

John said...

One word: DVR.
Once you have one, you'll "get back" 18 minutes per 1 hour show hitting FF through the commercials.
So that 4 hours turns into 3...ya! 1 extra hour to add to my car commute...which is exactly what I add when I take the bike.

It's a wash. DVR=good; channel surfing = bad.

P.S. This is also handy for TDF viewing while on the trainer. 4 clicks, and you're past the cliff-bard and Kenda Tire ads :)