Turns out biking and walking in winter isn’t a breeze

Our transportation columnist’s one-month check-in: Convenience is a tough drug to kick.

Convenience is a drug.

It can be comforting, but not always healthy. There’s even a term, “diseases of comfort,” that stems from excessive convenience and inactivity.

One part of the remedy can be in biking and walking to get around, especially if it becomes part of a daily habit, such as a work commute or errands.

But convenience has been and remains my top challenge of choosing to bike, bus and walk places instead of firing up my newish commuter car to get groceries or pick up takeout on these cold, dark, wet winter days.

Over a month has passed since I committed to active transportation, which basically means not driving a personal vehicle. I imagine a transit advocate would grade my execution of that commitment a C+, but that may be generous.

Some of the consistent wins have been for daily and weekly tasks, like dining and groceries. Unless I’m already in my car and need to stop at a grocery store, especially for heavy items like laundry detergent or bulky purchases such as toilet paper, I have walked the mile round trip with reusable bags.

Doing my part to support the restaurants I cherish, I’ve biked and walked to pick up takeout orders. It’s meant some brisk rides and frigid walks, all within a mile, but I layer up and keep my mask on for warmth and to reduce the risk of catching or transmitting COVID-19.

Another daily win is entirely because of the pandemic: I work from home. That cuts out a daily commute of only 2.5 miles. But if I’m required to return to the Herald’s office regularly, I’ll either hop on the Everett Transit 7 route, which has a bus stop just a few blocks away, or I’ll bike. Both options will take about 20 minutes, about double the time to drive.

Anything beyond a couple of miles has been a barrier for me to bike, bus or walk. That’s included golf outings to Snohomish and Sultan, but maybe I’ll figure out how to lug my golf bag onto a bus and go to a driving range or course closer to me.

In early January I had to return and exchange a Christmas gift in Lynnwood, which proved to be a flub by me. I checked the store’s hours in the Apple Maps app, drove down in time for what should have been the opening time — only to find that the hours were wrong in the app and the store didn’t open for another two hours. Dejected, I drove home.

I saved that return trip for another week, after I had accumulated a stack of south Snohomish County needs. That’s considered trip-chaining, a common tip to drive less. Even there, I could have biked or walked to Everett Station, taken a Community Transit bus to the mall and then another one to my subsequent stop in the Meadowdale area. But that felt like a hassle.

Again, the allure of convenience strikes.

To further encourage my transit use, I’m setting more goals for myself. I need to get and put money into an ORCA card, which holds money for fares across several transit agencies, including Community Transit, Everett Transit, King County Metro, Sound Transit and Washington State Ferries.

For errands farther than one mile within Everett, I’ll take a bus instead of delaying and trip-chaining with other tasks.

Just last week I walked to the Everett Public Library to get my order, which evolved into a stroll to nearby Toggle’s Bottleshop for a pint and some cans for home, then a little treat or two from Karl’s Bakery on the way home.

That felt like convenience, too, even if it required a bit more effort.

Have advice?

I’m still new to this active transportation thing. Anyone in Everett and Snohomish County who has advice, questions or recommendations, please let me know.

Have a question? Call 425-339-3037 or email streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

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