Everyone knows you should ride the bus, bike, or rollerblade to work to "save the environment." But that's easier said than done. Buses, like cabs, are never nearby when you need them, cycling leaves one at the mercy of Mother Nature, and rollerblading takes coordination.
Yesterday I mentioned that my method of transportation is about as good as I can make it. I travel to and from work by bike when I can, and by bus when the weather is too bad. I get cold in the winter, and overheat in the summer. My jacket is studded with blinking LEDs and I have what seems like constant helmet hair, but it's worth it. Here are a few of the reasons why.
Energy Conservation Traveling by bike is a marvelously efficient way to go. A cyclist burns about 35 kilocalories (this is the "calorie" you see on nutrition labels) per mile. To put that in perspective, see how other modes of transportation measure up: The subway runs at about 800 kcals/mile, the bus at 900 kcals/mile and a car at 1800 kcals/mile.
Gridlock/air pollution When I first started biking to work, I was surprised to learn that biking is slightly faster than driving, at least in Boston. Bikes don't get snared in traffic jams, and don't contribute smog.
Camaraderie Nothing brings you closer to another person than shared misery, and nothing provides more common misery than the weather. Is it too cold? Too rainy? Too hot? When you cycle to work, you know firsthand. Cyclists never run out of things to say about the weather. Join our ranks.
I realize that I'm speaking from a place of privilege. I can afford to advocate cycling and public transportation. I live in a city where the buses and trains run every 10 minutes during rush hour and on the half hour during the day. Many of our streets have bike paths (sadly, during the winter, "bike path" seems to be just another word for snowdrift), and my neighborhood was recently named the best walking city in America.
Not so long ago, I lived in upstate New York. There, the bus was unreliable and nothing was close enough to walk to. Anyone who didn't own a car was asking for a preponderance of boring Saturday nights.
I also realize that even in a city like mine, there are other considerations that keep people car-bound. If I had a dependent to worry about, or lived more than a few miles from work, I'd be sorely tempted back into car ownership.
For those who can't change their ways entirely, keep these common tips in mind: Carpool when you can, and try to run your errands in one go to maximize path efficiency. If you work flexible hours, shift your schedule to avoid rush hours Slow down to reduce the drag on your vehicle and maximize fuel efficiency, inflate your tires properly, and watch out for cyclists.