Crazy commutes: Employing alternative methods to beat traffic

Bizarre commuting tales

There is nothing typical about Tommy Lutz's typical commute, especially when he's out by himself in a tiny boat on the sprawling Hudson River. Yet it's the most peaceful part of his incredible 12-mile trek from his home in New Jersey to his office at Google in Manhattan.

The boat was homemade. "I bought the plans to build this boat, and my son and I spent a few months in the summer putting it together," he said.

Tommy Lutz crosses the Hudson River on his way to work in Manhattan. Not exactly bumper-to-bumper. CBS News

"With all due respect, it looks a little flimsy," said correspondent Susan Spencer.

"It's lightweight and foldable, yet also floats," he said.

Yes, foldable, and that is key to Lutz's commute. After folding his foldable boat, he unfolds his foldable bike, then bikes the boat to the dock, where he re-folds his bike, and unfolds his boat.

And faster than you can say "origami," he's on the river. 

Tommy Lutz deploys his folding bicycle and folding boat on his 12-mile daily commute. CBS News

Spencer asked, "Do your coworkers think that you're completely nuts?

"They haven't said it to my face, but maybe," he laughed.

Then again, maybe they're just jealous. if they're normal commuters, they are spending on average 97 hours a year stuck in traffic.

"Getting anywhere in an automobile, it's just not a pleasant experience," Lutz said. "And then I have to worry, 'Where do I put this car when I get to work?' I can't fold it up!"

Transportation engineer Sam Schwartz, who's credited the dubious honor of popularizing the term "gridlock," said he could see someone resorting to piloting a boat to get to work, "if that person was sitting in traffic pounding on the dashboard, screaming out the window, 'I'm mad as hell, I can't take it anymore.'"

He believes that gridlock is only getting worse, from California ("Now, if you're 20 miles away from somebody in Los Angeles, they will not visit you"), to New York ("The old joke is, 'Shall we walk cross town, or do we have time to take a taxi?'").

But "Gridlock Sam," as they call him, sees possible light at the end of the blocked intersection, namely millennials. He said, "The glimmer of hope is younger people wanting to be healthy and caring about their planet. They are showing up on bikes, walking, jogging."

But it's not just young trendsetters. Fifty-three-year-old Dan Hansen, in Minneapolis, commutes five miles to work … on a unicycle.

Spencer asked, "You ride the unicycle to work every day?"

"Five days a week!" he replied. 

Off to work we go: Dan Hansen commuting on his unicycle. CBS News

He says his trusty unicycle, which he's been riding for almost two decades, is faster, cleaner and cheaper than anything else.

And when he passes cars sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, he thinks, "Boy, I'm glad I'm not in your seat!'" he laughed.

On the wheel, at seven feet tall, he is moving, at about 20 miles per hour.

Guess who else thinks this is a great idea: Tommy Lutz. "I would love to ride a unicycle to work," he said. "That sounds like fun!"

For sure, our desperation to beat the traffic can make normal people try crazy things …

Susan Spencer tries out a unicycle with Dan Hansen. CBS News

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Story produced by Amiel Weisfogel.