I have been living in Lund, Sweden for about two weeks now, and have utilized about every type of transportation available to man, apart from boats and rocket ships. I used a plane to get here obviously, the bus occasionally, I’ve had a couple of car rides, walked several miles, have taken trains to other towns, and my new bike has already seen some wear.
My focus in this post is on the marriage of minimalism and practicality when it comes to getting around. I look for a method that is low-impact, cost-efficient and does not abuse my time.
All of these methods have their merits and their downfalls, and they are each dependent on one’s location and personal situation. Different countries (and different cities, for that matter) have different levels of infrastructure, so it’s difficult to write a post that is all-inclusive to anywhere in the world. Expect a huge USA/Sweden bias.
Millions of people worldwide journey to the bus stop everyday. It is, if carried out correctly by the city, an efficient and dependable way to travel. Sweden’s public transportation is among the best in the world. The buses are ALWAYS on time, and you can purchase a ticket simply by walking on with your electronic bus pass. Most of them use either biodiesel or ethanol for fuel. In fact, Sweden has the largest ethanol fleet in the world.
Of course, you have to pay for all these goodies. It’s generally between $3 - $6 to various places in Lund if you don’t have a pass. This is opposed to the free bus system at my home university, however unreliable that it was. It could be worth at least having a pass handy for those mornings you wake up to a torrential downpour.
As bad for the environment as they are, cars are probably the most comfortable way to get around town. You can decide on your own schedule, have your personal space, avoid the sometimes true stigma of public transportation…but at what cost? Gas prices have been consistently getting worse throughout my short life, to the point where going to the pump can sometimes ruin a morning that was going well.
Carpooling is a great way to have the convenience, split the fuel costs, and alleviate some of the environmental impact. If you want to look at extremely cheap and efficient carpooling on a massive scale, check out Zip Car.
The bike: exercise, transportation, and adventure, all in one. It is a great way to see the city and I guarantee you’ll know how to get anywhere in town after spending a day lost and aimless on a bike (especially if it’s raining). Commuting by cycle is very sustainable because the only environmental impact is from the materials that went into its production. Oddly enough, you also might be able to get where you need to go more quickly than if you commute by bus or car. You can easily maneuver where other vehicles cannot.
The amount of pleasure one can get from biking around town really depends on the bike-friendliness of the town. Honestly, I think almost any other country in the world is more bike-friendly than the US. In many parts of South America, India, and Southeast Asia it is the primary form of personal transportation. In Europe, it is accepted for it’s convenience and sustainability. Haters aside, I think bicycles are the perfect combination of mobility and sustainability, while also quickly paying for themselves by avoiding bus fares and painful gas prices.
We can’t forget good old-fashioned walking. The only costs involved go toward being fully-clothed in accordance to the law.