After turning to public transit for a few years because of injury, I’m back to commuting to work on my bike. I really enjoy commuting on my bike, even when it means starting the day in the dark and cold. Riding contributes to my mental and physical health and I figure it should help reduce my climate change contributions. But I have to admit that I then worry as I pop in my car on the weekend to drive myself somewhere to paddle. Am I just undoing the benefits from my week of commuting?
If I’m honest, I would probably make the trip to paddle even if I drove to work each day. Paddling is also part of my mental and physical health plan so I feel it is important in my life. So then, does bike commuting the rest of the time carry enough benefits?
Brand et al (2021) studied the impacts of switching one trip a day to cycling by close to 2000 people in seven European cities. Many of these cities are quite good for active transport already. The researchers tracked the carbon emissions reduction from having people switch one trip a day from car to cycling and the results were significant: a drop of about 0.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. This is the equivalent of planting 15-23 trees.
Obviously, the more trips we can switch away from cars the greater the improvements but I like the idea of targeting one trip to make a difference. I once worked somewhere where they had an office pool of bicycles. It made it very easy to make short trips for meetings by bike. Currently, I work somewhere where I can bring my bike up into my office, eliminating the need for me to carry heavy locks. These are the kinds of features that can make it easier for people to make changes. Add this to infrastructure changes by cities like bike lanes and lights triggered by bikes. And cycling can become more of a reality.
The question I’m waiting on right now, is how good is the snow clearing on the bike paths I take to work? Will I be able to keep up my efforts or is the system going to shut me down?