biking

Pedaling to a Sustainable Future During Bike-to-Work Month

By Marco Evert

If you peeked into the EPA Seattle bike locker in May, you’d find a tidy corridor lined wall to wall with bikes, helmets, and child carriers. Our participation in Bike-to-Work Month extended to Alaska, Idaho and Oregon, with staff across EPA Pacific Northwest Region waking up and strapping on helmets for the morning bike ride to the office, some with kids in tow to drop off at daycare.

When we participated in Bike-to-Work Month, we joined a community of people committed to sustainability and we wanted to give our support. How do you show appreciation to a Seattle bike commuter? With coffee and healthy snacks, of course! We celebrated Bike-to-Work Day on May 16 by hosting a commute station with coffee, fruit, and treats in Seattle’s Centennial Park along Puget Sound. This has been a tradition of ours since 2003.

That day, ten EPA employees showed up bright and early before work to cheer on about 520 riders who stopped by on their morning commute. The station is a growing partnership between EPA, the neighborhood Whole Foods, the Seattle Art Museum, and its café, and Nuun Hydration. In addition to feeding and caffeinating the cyclists who stopped by, we highlight the efforts of Cascade Bicycle Club to make bike commuting accessible and safe in the Pacific Northwest. This organization hosts Bike-to-Work Day in Seattle and rallies organizations and businesses to sponsor commute stations.

 

Seattle area commuters show off their rides at EPA’s Bike-to-Work Day station.

Seattle area commuters show off their rides at EPA’s Bike-to-Work Day station.

 

Seattle area commuters show off their rides at EPA’s Bike-to-Work Day station.

Jonathan Freedman, an ecologist who has worked in the EPA Seattle office for 13 years, has spearheaded EPA’s sponsorship of a bike station since its inaugural year. “It gives EPA employees a chance to serve our community together as volunteers, and as bike commuters we can make friends with other workers who bike downtown,” Freedman said. “That’s part of the fun of it – we see some people year after year.” Since the first EPA commute station in 2003, Freedman estimates EPA has seen 6,000 bikers pass by our station, double or triple the number we would get in the early years.

EPA Pacific Northwest Region bike commute station volunteers (left to right): Annie Christopher, Hanady Kader, Jonathan Freedman, John Keenan, Rob Elleman, and Erik Peterson.

EPA Pacific Northwest Region bike commute station volunteers (left to right): Annie Christopher, Hanady Kader, Jonathan Freedman, John Keenan, Rob Elleman, and Erik Peterson.

When cyclists stopped by, we asked them to put pins on a map showing points of departure and destination, and we pinned our own routes as well. At the end of the morning, we had a colorful splash of pins covering Seattle.

A rider pins his trip on EPA’s commute map.

A rider pins his trip on EPA’s commute map.

Biking to work puts into practice our professional and personal commitment to sustainability. We thank all bike commuters, including EPA’s own, for pedaling during Bike-to-Work Month and throughout the year.

About the author: Marco Evert is a 2014 Federal Bike-To-Work Challenge intern. He is a junior at Seattle University in Washington State working towards a Public Affairs degree.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Sweet Spot: Riding to Work

By Lek Kadeli

There are times in life when everything seems to align. When you know you are in the right place at the right time, doing something that is at once productive and satisfying. I’ve found a regular activity that fits the bill: bicycle commuting.

I began making the switch to two-wheeled commuting over time. At first I was primarily looking for a way to build a bit more physical activity into my weekly routine. I began leaving the car at home from time to time in favor of riding. It turned out to be an easy transition. More

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Earth Month Tip: Give your car a break

Using public transportation, carpooling, biking or walking can save energy and reduce carbon pollution on your way to and from work. Leaving your car at home just two days a week can reduce carbon pollution by an average of two tons per year.

Do you hate getting stuck in traffic jams? It may seem bold, but consider telecommuting (working from home via phone or the Internet), which can reduce the stress of commuting, reduce pollution, and save money. Even small life changes, like combining your errands and activities into one trip when using your car, make an impact.

More tips: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/actonclimate/

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Bike-Friendly EPA Headquarters

By Ed Fendley

It’s awesome to be part of an agency that’s helped clean America’s air and water and is working to reduce emissions of deadly mercury. Now I’ve got a new – and local – reason to appreciate the EPA: outdoor bicycle racks here at our headquarters buildings.

Recently, four sets of modern bike racks were installed outside at the Federal Triangle campus in Washington, D.C., as part of a broader EPA plan to welcome bicycling by employees and visitors. (We already have bike parking in our basement garages.)

Giving people choices in how to get around is a great thing. Studies show that if people can conveniently walk, bike, or take transit, many of them will choose to drive less – reducing traffic and cleaning the air.

And that fits neatly into our mission at EPA. According to EPA’s Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2009 (April 2011), roughly 17 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions come from passenger vehicles. Investing in public transit and other transportation options, like biking, make it easier for people to drive less, lowering greenhouse gas emissions. These approaches can also help reduce carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and other pollutants emitted by motor vehicles.

As EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld recently wrote, there are lots of good reasons to ride a bike – including pure joy. I can relate: my kids and I ride a lot. They bike to school and we often tool around on the weekends together. I’ve also ridden to work for 20 years now. It’s exciting to see that bicycling rates are increasing rapidly across the country.

Building design is part of that. Convenient bike parking, as well as showers and lockers, get more people riding. Placing racks within 50 feet of building entrances is recommended as it helps visitors who may not have access to the parking garage. It also helps employees like me who bike during the day to meetings around town.

As more employees and visitors choose to ride, EPA will need to make further improvements. But for the moment, I’ll pause to celebrate as I park my bike and stroll into my office.

About the author: Ed Fendley is a senior policy analyst with the Office of Sustainable Communities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Biking for Sustainability

By Shannon Bond

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I strap on my helmet, slip into my gloves, and sling my hydration pack across my shoulders. It’s time to find adventure. I swing my leg over the saddle and click my right shoe into the peddle. A lot of the time I find my adventure on the back of a mountain bike, flying down all of the single track dirt trails I can find. Rocky climbs, fast descents, quick and flowing terrain, it’s all meditative.

I’ve ridden for years, but since coming to the EPA a few thoughts have lodged themselves into my consciousness. One of those thoughts creeps into my mind on every ride; as my muscles are screaming and I’m focusing on, well, my focus, I think about sustainability.

Merriam-Webster defines sustainable as, “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sustainable)

Trails and parks are a perfect example of sustainability. They not only provide a refuge for wildlife, they also provide a refuge for people. These areas work well as an escape from the daily barrage of work and technology, a personal connection with nature, or a great way to exercise. Sustainability isn’t just about our physical environment, though; it’s about us, too. On the EPA website, it describes sustainability in the following way:

“Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.” (http://www.epa.gov/sustainability/)

I would say that these trail systems definitely promote that productive harmony, as well as fulfill some of our social needs. I’ve come to understand that these trails don’t happen by themselves though. Parks don’t just sprout up for people to hike and explore, and bike-friendly urban environments don’t just happen, they are built. A lot of planning goes into public use areas, and a lot of maintenance is required to keep them going.

You don’t generally think about Kansas City and biking, especially mountain biking, but the scene has grown. It’s an exciting time for the bike community in Kansas City. According to the Earth Riders Trail Association (http://www.earthriders.org/) we have at least thirteen maintained trail systems in the K.C. metro area. I know from talking to some of these dedicated individuals that there are even more planned.

 

ERTA Trails

Now that I realize what it takes to maintain these trails, I appreciate them even more, and the folks who get out and work on them. Initially, there has to be an agreement with the land owners. Those owners can be county, federal, or state. Then it takes coordination with the land managers to plan the trail system in an environmentally-sustainable way. After that, a host of volunteers spend countless hours on trail work days. Even after the trails are built, those work days keep coming. All of this behind-the-scenes work is hidden from the everyday user. To lend a hand, though, you can check the group’s websites and pick any number of maintenance days to show up at:

http://earthriders.com
http://www.earnyourdirt.org/
http://www.kansascyclist.com/links/TrailMasonsAssociation.html
http://www.kansascyclist.com/

 

Shannon Bond  is a multimedia production specialist with EPA Region 7’s Office of Public Affairs. He has served in a host of roles including military policeman, corrections officer, network operations specialist, photojournalist, broadcast specialist and public affairs superintendant.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Join Us and Bike to Work

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

By Joe Edgell

I’m always struck by the reasons people have for not commuting by bike.  No shower facilities.  Don’t know the route.  Unsure how to get started.  But the biggest reason cited by most people is the perceived safety of riding a bike in traffic.  In fact, 60% of people in U.S. cities indicate they would ride a bicycle but for their traffic-related concerns, according to Tom Bowden, Chairman of BikeVirginia in his recent National Bike Summit presentation.

Believe it or not, biking is actually much safer than driving or walking.  Biking has significantly less fatalities than driving, walking near traffic, swimming, motorcycling, and flying small planes.  For every hour you ride your bike, you have an incredibly small chance of getting injured—and only a 0.00000041% chance of dying.  Compared to driving a car, bicycling is far safer.  If you drive your car, you have a 15 times higher liklihood of dying than if you ride your bicycle.  You would have to ride your bike about 15,000 hours before you’d risk being killed, a number almost no one reaches.

Looking at the benefits of bicycling, the British Medical Society found, according to Tom, that the health benefits of riding your bike outweigh the risks by 77 to one!  You’ll do your mind and body a favor by bike commuting, arriving at work refreshed and ready to start the day.  And arriving home, having ridden all the day’s stresses out.

Given the incredible safety of biking to work, please come join me and my fellow cyclists and bike to work this summer. If you’re a federal government employee you can join the Federal Bike-To-Work Challenge. All cyclists can participate in events and get tips from the League of American Bicyclists. Start biking to work today and you’ll find out just how easy bicycle commuting really is!

About the author: Joe Edgell is an attorney for the Office of General Counsel. Perched atop the bicycling baby seat, he’s been bicycling since before he could walk.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The New Bike Commuter…. 45 Years and 132,000 Miles Later

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By Max Sevareid

Mostafa (Safa) Shirazi recently turned 80 years old. However, age has not kept Safa off his bike while working as a environmental research scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory Western Ecology Division facility in Corvallis, Oregon; Safa has biked to work daily since 1969. He estimates he’s bike commuted 132,000 miles, more than most cars on the road today!

Safa initially had a 6 mile round trip bike to the EPA. For the last 28 years, his commute has been 15 miles round trip by bike. What motivates him? Safa says “Just do it! Don’t think about it. Rain? Fine. Snow? Just walk, or walk your bike.” Safa wants to “live within his means – the nation needs to do that. We consume too much energy.” Just as Safa still chops the wood that heats his house to this day, his bike commuting helps him stay healthy. Asked how he stays safe, Safa says “you learn to be safe on a bike – take your time. Be careful.” He recommends reflective clothing and blinkers; Safa even wears blinker lights strapped to his trousers to encourage greater visibility. While segments of his commute have worried him in the dark and rain, local drivers look out for him since “everybody knows in town that I ride”.

Biking 132,000 miles to his federal job, Safa has saved about 129,360 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. Last year, Safa was a member of an EPA bike to work team logging miles during a month-long challenge. He logged more miles than his younger, fellow team members – 285 miles over 19 round trips – and achieved a 100% bike commute rate. EPA and other federal riders can still join this May’s Federal Bike-To-Work Challenge to be like Safa – see details here.

About the author, Max Sevareid, NHTSA Region 10 of the USDOT.  In partnership with the EPA Region 10 and local bicycle advocacy groups, Max encourages bicycle commuting and safety among federal agencies through bicycle commute challenges.  Max and his wife, Tiffany, try to incorporate bike commuting into their lives every day.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Walking to School

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By Gina Snyder

At a recent visit to Birchmeadow Elementary School in my hometown to talk to students about our watershed, I noticed a poster on the wall saying “October is National Walk to School Month”. I was delighted – not just because walking is good for public health and the environment, but also because I had just learned that this would mean students would be more attentive when I spoke.

At a recent lecture by Mark Fenton, an adjunct professor at Tufts University, I learned that teachers can tell when children walk or bike to school. “They are better behaved in class and more ready to learn,” Fenton had said.

Fenton, a nationally known public health and transportation consultant and former host of the “America’s Walking” series on PBS television, noted that obesity among children is so widespread that this generation will be the first to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

Whether we have children or not, we can all help students to live healthier lives.

For instance, by driving respectfully and stopping for pedestrians, we can encourage walking and biking. Like many people living in the Boston area, I have nearly been run over by crazy drivers, so I know the role drivers play in making walking safer.

Drivers can also become role models by leaving cars home. It’s healthier and better for the environment when we use our own people-power to get around.

And remember, children learn through experience. Walking with adults lets children practice crossing streets.

As you walk, follow these tips:

  • Look for traffic at each driveway and intersection. Be aware of drivers in parked cars getting ready to move.
  • Obey traffic signs and signals.
  • Cross the street safely.

Wear bright-colored clothes, and carry flashlights or wear reflective gear if it is dark or hard to see.

As days get shorter, don’t let darkness keep you from walking. When walking or biking at dawn or dusk, wear light-colored clothing and add reflective gear. Also, carry a flashlight – point the beam downward and slightly outward, and move it as you swing your arm with your natural walking rhythm.

When bicycling in dark or low light, have a headlight. Massachusetts law requires a front white headlight and a rear red reflector or red light on bicycles operated between 30 minutes before sunset and 30 minutes after sunrise.

So, keep stepping, peddling, or pounding the pavement – safely! It will be good for your health and for the environment.

About the author: Gina Snyder is an engineer at EPA’s New England office and volunteers with the Ipswich River Watershed Association and Walkable Reading. A 10-year participant in the Garden Club’s Adopt-an-Island program, Gina is hoping to help her home town plant rain gardens.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Biker Bob

By Amy Miller

Remember Bobby? He’s my brother who’s quietly doing his part to make the planet a little bit cleaner.

One of his passions is biking. He bikes to work, synagogue, the grocery store and sometimes to see his nephew play baseball. He’s been biking since he was in high school in NYC (a long time ago). He didn’t do it for exercise or to keep the earth clean any more than our father did.

Robert Myles Miller Sr., who wouldn’t be caught dead exercising and preferred Madison Avenue to meadows, biked before it was trendy. It got him to 57th and 5th in a quarter the time it took the bus.

Bobby can leave home 15 minutes before a Red Sox game and park next to Fenway – for free. He can speed through Coolidge Corner – at rush hour. And he pays $100 a year for vehicle maintenance, less than the cost of three tanks of gas.

True, Bobby looks kind of silly in his full biking regalia. But that’s because he’s not stupid. He has a rearview mirror on his helmet, flashing lights on his back fender and a neon vest over his jacket.

I estimate Bobby burns off a few hundred calories a day riding the six miles roundtrip between his home and his teaching job at the Heath School. That’s at least a chunky chocolate cookie or two. According to EPA’s “calculate your impact” website, he’s also preventing more than 300 pounds of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere each year.

So much does Bob believe, he started a blog encouraging others. “Biking In Brookline” contains some bike banter but mostly offers nuggets in the form of links and suggested reading.

After he saw a guy from Taza Chocolate in Somerville packing up goods on the back of a bike at a farmers market, Bob posted a picture of the tractor the guy used to tote everything from a tent to a table.

Bobby also suggested the website: Commute by Bike. And he noted newbies can get tips from. He was wowed by a New York Times article about a superhighway for bicycles in Copenhagen. The path has pumps along the route, and traffic lights timed for bicycle commuting. For those moved by health incentives, Bob suggests reading: “Bicycle Your Way to Better Brain Health”

As he said to fellow townspeople at the end of his blog intro, “why wouldn’t you want to bicycle as a means to get around?”

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Swim, Bike, Run (Even with Asthma)

By Scott Fraser

I am not a triathlete; those people are animals! But each year I “compete” in one or two Olympic distance triathlons. A friend recently asked me the same question I continually ask myself during the race, “Why do you want to do this?” Good question.

Well, for me, it’s a fitness goal to work towards and a great way to enjoy the outdoors while training. Quite often it’s tough to fit into a busy schedule, but just 30 minutes of exercise each day can really help. I like to swim in the mornings, fair weather commute to work on my bike and run through Rock Creek Park, a wonderful resource close to where I live. I’ve been signing up for triathlons for several years now and just completed my 10th overall (first for 2012) on Siesta Key, Florida – voted the #1 Beach in America in 2011. But while training this year, I learned something new: I have asthma.

How uncanny that I should learn about this condition in May, which is Asthma Awareness Month. My new, super-awesome doctor explained to me that I have exercise induced asthma. “Uh, you mean coughing after working out isn’t normal?” Whoa, I’ve experienced that my whole life! She further explained it’s one of several types of asthma and prescribed an albuterol inhaler to use before exercise. It’s important to know that you can still remain active despite having asthma. By talking to my doctor I was able to create an asthma action plan that has helped reduce the all too familiar coughing after strenuous workouts. And it’s good to know that professional athletes like NFL legend (and former Notre Dame dormmate – go Dawgs!) Jerome Bettis are able to manage their asthma symptoms while competing at the highest level of physical activity. We are not alone, as almost 13 million Americans reported having an asthma attack in the past year.

So as we transition to Great Outdoors Month in June, think about ways where you can get outside and safely enjoy your favorite activities. How will you be enjoying our environment? I’ll be checking for air quality and the UV Index with helpful apps to plan my outdoor training for my next triathlon. Hmmm… I really liked swimming along Siesta Key Beach, so I’ll see which triathlon has a similar open water swim for later in the summer. I’ll also be sure to slop on some sunscreen and check the beach advisory site before the swim, bike, run fun.

About the author: Scott is the Deputy Director of EPA’s Office of Public Engagement and works with stakeholders such as outdoor sporting groups. He enjoys getting outdoors whenever he can!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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