Healthy Transportation – The Mental Calculation

Executive Summary

Chances are, if you’re going to borrow a cup of sugar from the neighbor across the street, you’ll walk.  If you’re going to cut down your own Christmas tree at the farm 20 miles down the road, you’re going to drive.  For all other transportation needs that fall somewhere between these two extremes, you make a choice as to how you’re going to get there.  Do you usually make the best choice?  How do you decide?

How to Get from Point A to Point B With Karma Sense

When you need to run an errand, get to work, or an appointment, or catch a train you make a decision, whether consciously or not, on how you’ll get there.  This decision can be based on many variables including:

  • Time – For many, this is the primary consideration,  What is the fastest way to get there?  Unfortunately, often by the time we’ve asked ourselves we’ve already decided we’re going to drive so this calculation comes down to what is the best route and not the best mode.  Since this is a post about driving as a last resort, I’ll eventually make the case that the time saved by driving isn’t always worth it.
  • Safety – This should probably be the primary consideration but it rarely is.  Still, the best reasons to drive are often safety based.  Walking or cycling (or cross country skiing or roller blading) on a well-traveled path far from traffic in the middle of the day can be a life-affirming experience.  Walking on a deserted two-lane country road at 2:00 AM is an excellent opening shot for the next Friday the 13th movie.
  • Enjoyment – I don’t want to discount that for some, driving in the car can be a pleasant experience.  But many of the same people who seek that feeling also enjoy nature, experiencing new things, and meeting new people.  These features are all more accessible when car-free.  And traffic is almost always a problem unique to motor transportation.
  • Effort  – Back to the Christmas tree farm, there is no doubt that a car is the path of least resistance.  But what about going to the grocery or drug store to get one item?  Or dry cleaning?  Or getting you hair cut?
  • Cost – Car free options are almost always cheaper with respect to direct expenses.  But our time is valuable too.  This is one of the trade-offs we make.  But just to complete the picture, I’ll add public transportation options here.  Sometimes these are cheaper.  Sometimes they aren’t.  It is almost always cheaper and faster to drive 300 miles and maybe pay to park than it is to fly or take a train (and also park or arrange for car service).
  • Nobility – One of these transportation options almost always makes you feel better about yourself.  But it’s a matter of personal preference.
  • Health – The Safety variable is linked to health.  But health has other considerations as well.  It’ll come as no surprise that I think you should increase where this variable falls in the priority list.  Keep in mind that the US Department of Health and Human Services recommends 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week.  Walking a mile in 20 minutes qualifies and this is a very attainable pace for most adults regardless of fitness level.  On the other side, the new studies on how harmful extended sitting can be are alarming.
  • Sustainability – Maybe this is a subcategory of Nobility but for those of us who want to decrease our global footprint, driving is almost always the least sustainable option; despite what some politicians claim.
  • Productivity – What else can you get done while you’re in the act of transporting yourself?  If I exclude texting while driving/walking/cycling based on the Safety variable, public transportation almost always scores.
  • Mental stimulation – There are two aspects to this variable.  One is what mode of transportation makes you smarter?  Once again, science tells us that exercise improves intelligence, concentration, memory, and creativity.   But to be fair, studies on how driving affects intelligence are few and far between.  The best I could find is a link between bad driving and low intelligence.  Which explains Maryland.  The other aspect of this variable is that nontraditional modes of transportation can lead to thinking through challenges in new ways. You can read a little about someone who actually took up the challenge of picking up his Christmas tree in this article.

To many the above may be painfully obvious.  And Live Long Lead Long doesn’t really exist to convince you whether to exercise or not.  It’ mission is to help you integrate a healthy lifestyle into an already over-extended life.  So, because I’ve gotten feedback that my posts can be a little winded, I’ll provide some practical applications of the Transportation Mental Calculation in my next post.


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