Whether it’s a bike, bus or balloon, Kirkland resident Bruce Dawson is searching for alternative ways to commute to work as part of his 2018 Commute Challenge.
Dawson hasn’t gone as far as to use a balloon to commute, but he’s made his 1.25-mile commute to Google’s Kirkland campus via stilts, water skis, a unicycle, a paddleboard and 23 other methods, all in an effort to make his commute more interesting and less car-centric.
“North Americans spend a lot of time in their cars, always taking their cars to work and driving alone,” Dawson said. “Part of this is also just demonstrating that there are other ways to get to work, and some of them are not practical of course, but I’m taking a carpool to work tomorrow…ultimately it makes you healthier and happier. Every day I do this, I feel so happy when I get into work.”
Dawson first completed the month-long challenge in April 2017. He often used about six different commute methods to get to work because he lives near his workplace: walking, running, cycling, unicycling, inline skating and taking a bus.
The diversity of his typical commute methods planted an idea in Dawson’s head and he would make jokes to a colleague about using a different method for each day of a month. That was in March 2017.
“I [joked] a couple of times and at one point the co-worker just kind of got annoyed and said, ‘Put up or shut up…You should actually go do it,’” Dawson said.
So Dawson set out to complete the challenge. And he succeeded. He used 20 different methods to get to work for each weekday of the month. Out of them all, Dawson concluded that swimming in 46 degree water was the least practical.
“Zero stars, would not swim again,” Dawson wrote in a blog post. “Swimming was the only commute method that was simultaneously unpleasant, inefficient, and potentially dangerous – it’s the trifecta.”
The 2018 Commute Challenge was moved to September because of the cold weather during his first challenge. Despite this, he maintains that water skiing was the most fun he had commuting to work during last year’s challenge.
“That was just such a great way to start the day,” Dawson said, “Water skiing was amazing.”
Dawson added that he was surprised at how well the challenge went the first time. He had been saving his bike and a bus ride as reserve methods if any of the other ones fell through, but he didn’t need to use it.
Dawson quickly decided to do the challenge again after the success of the first challenge and the first thing he changed was the time of year. He began this month with a paddleboard commute and is still going strong more than halfway through the challenge.
“I had some fun experiences with people,” Dawson said. “The first day of this one, I had a total stranger help me carry my paddleboard up the hill to Google. That’s kind of cool that you can still get help from random people these days.”
Dawson also added an extra rule that he couldn’t use methods from the 2017 challenge and he said he’s uncertain if he’ll succeed this time.
“Neighbors, friends and coworkers have been very helpful,” Dawson said. “I keep hoping some random person will reach out to me and say, ‘Hey I’d love to lend you my roller skis or give you a ride on a jet ski sometime this month.’ That hasn’t happened yet, but I’m still open to those options.”
Dawson is reaching out to his community for help and different commute ideas. Specifically, he’s looking for roller skis, roller skates, a giant pogo stick, drift skates or a jet ski ride that locals would be willing to lend him.
Additionally, Dawson is open to any ideas that are a balanced between practical, whimsical, fun and “not-too-deadly.”
COMMUTES CAN BE FUN
Dawson has been documenting his commute challenge in an effort to encourage his fellow community members to consider using alternate commute methods. His progress for the 2018 challenge can be tracked online at tinyurl.com/commutechallenge2018 or twitter.com/hashtag/commutechallenge?src=hash.
Additionally, locals can email him with ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Life is too short to spend it stuck in traffic, or looking for parking,” Dawson wrote in a blog post. “While not everybody has the diversity of commute options that I have, I think that there are some people who commute alone in a car because they haven’t fully considered the costs (financial, societal, environmental) or because they haven’t considered the health and joy benefits of trying other options.”
While taking the bus or a carpool to work may take longer than a solo drive, Dawson points out that those methods may be a better use of time.
“If you can read a book or talk to a friend while commuting then that’s progress,” he wrote. “I use my bike and other non-car methods to commute partly because it’s better for the world (fewer greenhouse gases, one less car on the road, one less parking spot used) but mostly because it makes me happier.”