What are the chances you don't drive to work? Not very good if you live in the United States, considering that 100 million Americans commute by car – 84 million people drive solo, and less than 2 percent walk or bicycle to work or school.
Finding alternatives for driving to work would be one of the best conservation choices you could make – both for the environment and for yourself. Consider a 1997 report by the Texas Transportation Institute. It found that traffic congestion costs urban commuters, as a group, 4.3 billion hours of delay and 6.6 billion gallons of wasted fuel, which is not time and energy well spent.
Depending on where you live, and whom you work for, leaving the car behind may be tough. But there are usually feasible alternatives to driving:
Employers are beginning to see the cost and productivity benefits of letting employees work at home. After all, at-home workers don't require office space, and they tend to be happier and more loyal. To make a strong case to your employer, visit the Web site of the Telework Coalition.
The council calculated that each telecommuter can save the employer $10,006 in reduced absenteeism and job retention costs – a big reason the number of telecommuters has jumped to more than 10 percent of the workforce.
Public transportation is of course preferable to driving in terms of the environment. Subways, commuter trains, and buses cut down on congestion and turn over the stress of driving to someone else.
The freewheeling solution! Anyone who bikes to work swears by it. You have more freedom, and you get your exercise for the day while avoiding the stress of gridlock. If you don't think biking to work seems practical, take a closer look. In Richard's 21st-Century Bicycle Book, Richard Ballantine points out that during rush hour in cities, cars average just eight to twelve miles per hour! Bikes, which can stick to trails or bypass traffic, average ten to fifteen miles per hour.
Not only that, but eighty percent of all car trips in the United States are within eight miles of home, a very doable bike ride. Forty percent of car trips are two miles or less, truly a shame given that most car emissions are given off in the first mile, before the engine warms up. Using a car to go one mile makes about as much sense as using a torque wrench to take the cap off your toothpaste.
So what's standing in your way? There are excellent resources available to help make your community more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.
Keep in mind, if you become a bike commuter, you want your workplace to be accommodating. If it's not, start practicing your advocacy skills. Get your coworkers interested, and then lobby your supervisors. Explain to them how studies have shown that employees who bike to work take fewer sick days, and how happier, healthier workers are more productive. Find some good unused space in the office (beneath a stairwell, for instance) and demonstrate how easy it would be make the space into a bike storage area.
You may live in an area with poor bike trail systems. One way to improve your city's trail system is to get involved in a Rails-to-Trails program. Rails-to-Trails is a U.S. nonprofit organization working to turn old railroad rights-of-way into low-impact transportation networks.
Just about anywhere you live, you'll find a group of people dedicated to replacing cars with bikes on the roads. Go to your bike shop or do an online search, and you'll likely discover a wealth of resources, such as maps that show the best route from A to B and ideas for making your office more bike friendly.
Whatever alternative to driving you choose, you have leverage with your employer. Since 1998, the U.S. government has offered the Commuter Choice Program, which provides federal tax-free transit or vanpool benefits, or taxable cash, to businesses – up to $175 per employee per month – if they convince their staff to carpool, telecommute, bicycle, or walk.
Get more tips for:
At Home | At Work | In The Backyard | In The Classroom | In Your Community | Outdoors
Home Owners | Commuters | Businesses | Investors | Politicians & City Planners