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Wrapping up Bike to Work Month

Crazy drivers, traffic jams, road construction… if you commute to work by car you’re probably familiar with these frustrations. In the past, I’ve had the pleasure of living close enough to work that I could easily take a bus in the winter and ride my bike in the summer. In fact, the complication of parking made these modes of transportation much easier than driving.

Currently, biking to work is more difficult. However, last year I heard about Bike to Work Day, which occurs during Bike to Work Week in the middle of May (you guessed it, Bike to Work Month). I knew that I was not quite in shape for it then, but made it a goal to take on the challenge of biking to work this year during Bike to Work Week.

Commuter traffic

Don't worry mom, I've already stopped

As spring came around this year, I was back in the morning workout groove. I had lost a few pounds, but more importantly, I was feeling more fit – feeling up to the challenge. The time had come to do some research. I looked at bike routes in the area, and did a weekend trial run on the shortest commute using Indy Parks bike routes that I could come up with.

Unfortunately, I have a hybrid-style bike (not a road bike), which limits my speed, and I’m not comfortable riding on the street. The quality of the shoulder varied from good to poor to non-existent. Fortunately, I have a hybrid, but this was not really the experience I was hoping for. So, I reworked my route to use higher quality, well-used paths, extending the length of the commute to about nine and a half miles but improving my safety.

Gooselings out for a morning swim

Gooselings out for a morning swim

During Bike to Work Week, I decided to ride on the day with the best weather forecast. It was a little cold when I started, but the skies were blue and it wasn’t long before I was enjoying the cool breeze. As I came to the canal that eventually runs by the museum, I rode past ducks sleeping along the water in the morning sun. Further along I rode past geese, and I can only assume that both parties were wary of any sudden movements. The toughest section is the climb up to the museum from the bridge… I’m glad I have plenty of gears.

While the morning commute has a serene quality to it, I enjoy the ride back even more. My drive back home can be fraught with decisions about which route will have less traffic, and I see examples of poor driving behavior just about every time. Although there’s just as much need to pay attention whether driving or biking, I feel that it’s easier to attain a peaceful awareness when cruising on two wheels.

Starting out for home

Starting out for home

This is why I’ve done the commute four times already. The ride is still pretty exhausting, so I can’t do it every day, but I think once or twice a week is a good goal. It’s a great way to keep in shape, reduce stress, and minute though the effect may be, it reduces carbon dioxide emissions. I couldn’t help working the equations, so let’s take a look at the numbers.

My biking offsets 9.0 miles of driving. I’ve been getting about 48mpg lately, so that’s 0.38 gallons saved per commute. At $2.50 per gallon that saves me 95 cents. According to the EPA, burning 0.38 gallons of gas emits 7.4lbs of carbon dioxide. So assuming that any additional respiratory exhalation of CO2 is negligible (biochemists, is this true?), I’m eliminating an amount of carbon dioxide emissions that would weigh almost as much as a gallon of milk with each commute.

That seems significant, on a personal level, considering that annual per-capita emissions are estimated to be on the order of 16 tons (working out to about 88lbs per day). Of course, eliminating hundreds of millions of metric tons of emissions with a new emissions standard is much more significant on a national level. Someone getting the average 35mpg in 2016 would still save 8.6 cents (at $2.50 per gallon) and 0.55lbs of carbon dioxide per mile if they biked instead. Someone getting around 20mpg could save 13 cents and 0.97lbs of CO2 per mile today. Feel free to check my math… that’s what peer review is all about.

Better health, less stress, less traffic, less carbon… seems like a win-win to me. Are there any other bikers out there? What are your thoughts?

Filed under: Local, Musings, Travel

6 Responses to “Wrapping up Bike to Work Month”

  • avatar
    Noelle Says:

    I aspire to bike to work but am not comfortable biking on the roads or new bike lanes downtown which feel dangerous for both the biker and the cars who can’t find their lane after crossing an intersection. I’ve make the trip from home via the Greenways (Monon, Canal Towpath, White River Trail), and it takes about 45 min to get to the IMA (factor in some freshen up time on top of that). Driving is 5 miles and takes 10 minutes. I welcome any advice…

  • avatar
    Ed Says:

    I’d recommend using the Greenways. The Monon and Canal Towpath are really nice trails, and I’m sure it’s a more pleasant route than cutting through downtown would be. It’s hard to beat a 10 minute commute, so you kind of have to bite the bullet and consider that you’re getting in a workout in addition to commuting.

  • avatar

    Great post! It’s nice to run the numbers sometimes and see how many pounds of CO2 are being saved — even more for me because my wife drives the efficient car on her longer commute which leaves the terrible MPG Xterra for me. That alone is a great motivator to get on the bike, but it’s even cooler when you have a nice ride and can think of it as a workout. I also take a longer route to work both for scenery and safety, and it’s absolutely worth the extra distance. Yesterday I even saw a deer in a little bit of woods just behind an interstate ramp! Good times.

  • avatar
    Bryan Says:

    Great post. I just want to say that the Canal Towpath is a great amenity and one I wish we had here in Kansas City. I tagged along with my wife last month for Museums on the Web and while she was learning to Twitter I rented a bike and explored your wonderful City. Found the Towpath by accident and was blown away by how quickly and safely you can cruise around.

  • avatar
    ajk Says:

    Looks like your commute route is similar to mine — I use the Canal Towpath as well as the White River Trail (about two miles longer than the surface streets). Over the past year, I’ve worked up to commuting by bike every day, except in bad weather. I make the 6-mile trip in about 35 minutes on a 13-year-old mountain bike.

    At first I was worried about the extra time spent, but then I realized I’m getting a workout for free, and I’d gladly give an extra 40 minutes per day for that.

  • avatar
    Ed Says:

    That’s great, ajk! And thanks for reminding me about this post… a few weeks ago I learned a new tip about getting to the museum by bike. Rather than climbing up the treacherous hill by the loading dock, you can take the ramp up from the Towpath to Michigan Road and then enter the museum campus at the 42nd street gate. You get an easier entry, and bonus scenery while cruising by the greenhouse and Lilly House.

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