Most days I ride to work. I enjoy it. And while it’s true that I gently guide and help coworkers and friends who want to cycle more or commute, I’m by no means a ‘cycle-nazi’ – I still drive. Be it looming deadlines and late nights at the office, cross-city running around, or simple apathy, there are times I’ll trade two wheels for four.

Case in point – As my recent schedule became increasingly overwhelming I begrudgingly put the bike in the garage and grabbed the keys. However, rather than mindlessly meandering between locations I was keen to get something more out of my time behind the wheel – I decided to carefully monitor my mood, feelings and actions on my drive as well as my observations of others.

While perhaps not shocking, and definitely not scientific, here what I found:

  • I tended to be less patient on the drive home
  • Compared to other drivers I seemed to be more considerate – I frequently let more people in, allowed more drivers to merge, and slowed for more people coming out of parking lots
  • Compared to other drivers I tended to be much more patient/relaxed (though all I have to base this on was peoples anxious expressions and the aggressiveness with which they drove)
  • I slowed down for pedestrians/cyclists far more often than others, and tended to see them earlier (other drivers were either delayed in their reaction or didn’t see them at all)
  • I was part of the large minority that wasn’t using their cell phone (at lights, or while driving – it’s still rampant)

My main point of frustration (to no surprise) was when traffic got really backlogged and slow. Regardless of the source — traffic volume, weather, construction, etc. — I found myself getting a little stir-crazy just sitting there. I could see how drivers could start ragin’. During these times I tried to contrast my situation with my cycling commute.

The main resonating difference to me seemed to be control.

In traffic, you’re literraly “stuck” behind the wheel of your car, at the mercy of traffic, construction, stalls, pedestrians and other drivers. On the bike, there are many more options… Sure there’s still traffic, there’s still construction, but you’re rarely at a standstill, you’re always moving, you’re always progressing and getting closer to your destination.

That’s a good feeling.

I also find that physical activity helps with clarity of mind — Sitting behind the wheel, being at the mercy of traffic, not knowing when you’ll reach your destination is a frustrating thing and a helpless feeling.

I think part of the reason I managed to stay so relaxed on my drive is the realization of just how “easy” driving is. When you ride, every kilometre comes at price that is physically extracted from you. When driving however, you’re literally just sitting around listening to music… Sure you can fight against it and aggressively chase empty slots in lanes that appear to be moving faster, but ultimately you’re bound to the ebb and flow of traffic. The sooner you accept this, the happier you’ll be.

Or, I suppose you could ride a bike, and you may be even happier ;-)