Friday, December 9, 2011

The Importance Of A South Commute

Compass image from chrisinplymouth's Flickr photostream.

It was 16 degrees this morning, according to the usually way too optimistic bank sign that I pass.

It’s nice to see that sign in winter. Saying “16” when it might really be 11 or so is nicer than, say, displaying “95” when it’s really 90 in July. For you Celsius pals, even 16 is way below zero. TGFF (thank God for Fahrenheit).

My wife, a better woman than I, had been to the gym, and her informal weather report was “It’s COLD out there.” So I set off on my morning commute prepped for a bit of freezing.

And it was a nice morning. Mostly because the wind, from the north and west, was very light, and I was mostly traveling south. The parts of the commute where I had to turn due west were notably colder—when air moves at 11 or 16 degrees, it can suck warmth from facial flesh fairly fast, but even so, the wind was light enough that it was not a particularly uncomfortable morning.

Partly, that’s a happy accident of direction. I live north of Mount Mercy University, so I peddle south in the morning, north in the evening. And in Iowa, wind is most commonly from the west, while the coldest winter breezes are often north winds.

I didn’t plan to live north of MMU, it’s just where we found an acceptable house 10 years ago. For a commuter, it’s probably not the most ideal direction. In the Northern Hemisphere, if you work “normal” office hours, it’s probably best to live east of where you work, so the morning and afternoon suns are both behind you. The direction you don’t want to live is west—which doesn’t do much to explain urban growth in Des Moines, Iowa, but there you have it.

Anyway, while a car commuter should live east due to the position of the sun, I think north or south makes more sense for a bike commuter, and probably north is better than south. The coldest winds would be at my back during the coldest parts of the day. I’m never directly riding into or out of the sun, except for brief segments of my ride (and the most nerve-wracking time for a ride is as the sun sets and you’re trying to cross C Avenue at Blair’s Ferry headed east—all those turning, blinded car pilots …).

So, I’m happy that I’m a southbound, and then a northbound, commuter.

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