Biking to Work and Reducing Climate Change

About the author: Henry Ferland is Co-Director of the Methane to Markets Partnership Secretariat (

I work in EPA’s Climate Change Division on an international methane reduction program that seeks to reduce climate change by encouraging developing countries to capture and use methane.  While there are costs associated with developing methane projects, there are multiple local co-benefits including revenue from the gas,  increased air and water quality, improved worker safety (in coal mines) and reduced dependence on fossil fuels.

How does this relate to biking to work?  I bike commute down to EPA’s office at 1310 L Street –from Tenleytown, DC – about 20 to 25 minutes to work and about 25 to 30 minutes home depending on lights, traffic, how hard I push it.  This bike commute provides a small personal contribution to reducing climate change but, like methane reduction, has significant co-benefits:

Here’s my personal co-benefit list:

  1. May be fastest way to get to work (especially if you live in the city or in nearby suburbs).
  2. Reverses the traffic stress paradigm — instead of getting stressed at the sight of traffic — I get happy   as I zip past gridlocked cars on my bike lane.
  3. Excellent work-out.  Get a free hour of exercise each day without taking other time out of my schedule.
  4. Stress release — grinding up the hill on Massachusetts Avenue is a great way to unwind and decompress after a long day at the office.
  5. No fossil fuels equal zero emissions!
  6. Great way to wake up and greet the day!

All this said – there are some important barriers to consider:

  1. Occasional run-ins with bad or angry drivers.
  2. Lack of clear bike lanes on most streets in DC — one must learn to be an assertive bike rider and also learn to pick good routes.
  3. Proper gear — expensive outfits not needed — but a good wind layer is important for cold days in the winter and nice raincoat is good for rainy days.
  4. Showers and Office Clothes.  If your office is not set up for biking you may need to figure out a system (nearby gym?) for showering and dressing appropriately.  I’ve found it helpful to carry my clothes in a square plastic box in panniers.   It’s also worth investigating using a locker or extra filing cabinet as in-office storage for office clothes.

The bottom-line on bike commuting:  give it a try, and you may find that you arrive home happier and less stressed then before and that’s before considering all the other co-benefits!

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