Benefits of Bike Commuting: Environmental and Health Sustainability | The American Word

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Benefits of Bike Commuting: Environmental and Health Sustainability


By
Charlotte Prud’Homme | 11/11/15 10:19am
| Updated 11/11/15 6:52pm


Photo by Jackie Ick

Biking to work and school not only helps reduce AU students’ individual carbon footprints, but it also helps us hustling, overcommitted, fast-paced Wonks to slow down, unplug, and have time away from the screen. After a long day of lecture notes, email, Facebook, Twitter, texting, and scheduling, it’s nice to commute home screen-free and with the wind in your hair.

Elisabeth Rosenthal describes how to transform the cycling culture in America’s cities to resemble that of Europe’s, where biking is a main method of urban transportation, in a 2011 article titled, “
On Biking, Why Can’t the U.S. Learn Lessons from Europe?” from the Yale Environment 360 website. One of Europe’s biggest biking cities is Copenhagen, a city that actually had an issue with too many bikes flooding racks and sidewalks (you can guess that the city took immediate measures to redesign bike storage, as well as Sweden, and you can read about it here. The Europeans have set the ultimate example of how we can travel on two wheels to reduce our individual emissions while improving our health. How can we embrace our Euro-style and all become bike lovers at AU? Biking is healthy, fun and hip. It’s exploding everywhere as a way to travel efficiently for a low cost.

Bike AU is a Student Government Department focused on improving biking options and conditions for AU students. My hope is that with bike chatter amongst ourselves and the help of this organization, which gives helpful riding tips and organizes cycling events, the AU community’s bike commuter population continues to grow.

On that note, my question for the AU community is: how can we transform our commuting culture into one that harnesses significantly more pedal power?

Commuting by bike at AU is common but not outrageously popular. The bike racks are never filled, and there are few initiatives or incentives on campus encouraging students to take to two wheels.


To get a better sense of current student opinion, I interviewed students who ride their bikes to work and/or campus and asked them three questions:

  1. What is your favorite part of biking to work?

  2. What is your least favorite part?

  3. If you could change one thing about your morning commute on two wheels what would it be?

Brianna Brouwer, a senior who bikes to work and school, says that she likes to bike in the morning because it is refreshing, but she wishes cars were more receptive to bikers during rush hour. Bike safety is key: it is important to stay on the sidewalks at all times and use bike reflectors whenever possible. Although she admits to arriving sweaty at work sometimes, she agrees that the two-wheel commute is the best way.

Lauren Trombetta, a junior who “rides her bike everywhere” and says her bike is the most reliable transportation tool, enjoys not having to worry about schedules and public transportation times. Her least favorite thing is biking in the rain, although she’s mastered the art of staying dry with the right equipment. Gortex is a pricey but fool-proof option. Although the roads are sometimes unfavorable, Lauren emphasizes the part of biking that keeps her coming back.

“You aren’t really supposed to have earphones in for safety reasons and can’t check your phone so you are forced to stay more present and in the moment than metro or bus,” she says.

All students interviewed agreed that biking to school/work allows them to be more in touch with their surroundings, with others and with the environment rather than when traveling by car, bus, or metro. Biking on the sidewalk and slowing down for another passerby, using polite cycling talk by saying “on your left” or “coming up behind on your right,” giving a smile, or simply observing nature, construction workers hard at work fixing roads, and landscape workers managing wacky weeds and sloping hills are all examples of increased interaction. Biking keeps you at ease, in touch with your surroundings and breathing in fresh air.

What will it take for you to hop on your bike and cruise to campus? Give your classmates a friendly nudge to cruise on their wheels with you. Keep a lookout for my helmet hair– it’s a part of the movement!

Wondering what your current carbon footprint is? There are a lot of different tools you can use to measure your carbon footprint, but here is one of my favorites:
http://www.terrapass.com/carbon-footprint-calculator/.