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.
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.
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.
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?