The Commute Variations
James Black
Los Angeles, 2009

Eight months ago, my office relocated from six miles from home to a new location two miles from my apartment. Naturally I started riding less, and I gained five pounds pretty rapidly.

Gradually over the next few months, I begain to walk to work two or three times a week. Also early this year, my office went to an 80% schedule with Fridays off (and we have remained). I continued to ride less, but nevertheless lost about ten pounds (after the five I had gained). Walking was found to be good. It's convenient to stop at shops on the way. I enjoyed the 40-45 minute journey by foot. In contrast, if I had to drive in a car somewhere for 45 minutes, I would not enjoy it.

The situation continued until the start of June, when I was assigned to a project that requires me to spend every workday in a construction trailer at East Los Angeles College. Also in mid-June, my girlfriend and I moved from the Palms neighborhood to the Village Green (a National Historic Landmark greenbelt apartment/condo community east of Culver City at the foot of the Baldwin Hills). Renting at the Village Green costs us a lot less, suiting better our income levels, and every unit gets an enclosed single-car garage (read: bike room!). It's full of bicycling architects.

The commute to the office is still less than three miles, but since I am working at East LA College (in Monterey Park), my real commute these last two months, and for the foreseeable future, is 31 miles round trip. I have transformed from someone who was barely a cyclocommuter at all to a supercommuter riding 100-150 miles a week. This has been interesting.

The ride each way takes 65-70 minutes typically, which is a pretty good time for that distance in the city, with reasonably bike-friendly routes through south, downtown, and east Los Angeles (Rodeo, Jefferson, Figueroa, and Olympic for you locals). I consider the commute to be the best and worst part of this job--it's the most enjoyable part of my day, but the time it takes on both ends leaves little opportunity in the evenings for anything else.

I've definitely become a faster and stronger rider after a couple months of this new lifestyle. My weight has held steady, no doubt thanks to eating the kind of food that construction workers eat in Monterey Park, but it fluctuates a lot during the course of the week, in part due to varying states of dehydration. The whole situation is complex, but the cycling is one of the bright sides, and I'll miss all these miles when my lifestyle changes again.

James Black is the keeper of Architecture Burger and the designer of the cycling cap taht evolved into the James Black Hat!