How do you get to school or work? Do you drive, walk, take public transit, bike, or canoe (we really hope you canoe)? For residents in the north metro, and for much of the rest of the Twin Cities, the answer is that you drive. You may commute 30 minutes or more one way, and sit in traffic for half of that. Once you make it to your destination, you likely have to fight for a parking spot (in the case of the Coon Rapids campus of ARCC, this hunt is akin to the tributes’ fight over resources at the Cornucopia in the Hunger Games. Rest assured, it will go well for basically no one). What if there was a way to commute peacefully while also getting exercise, spending time outdoors, and allowing you to score a front row parking spot once you arrive? There is!
In September the Sustainability Committee hosted our first “Bike Week” on the Coon Rapids campus. The week’s events included a Student Lunch Ride to Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, a Park & Ride event, an academic talk, and a Faculty/Staff Ride.
For many students, staff and faculty at ARCC bike commuting all the way from their homes may seem like a daunting task. One faculty member who has occasionally commuted by bike from St. Paul said she is faced with a 44 mile round trip ride, or just under 2 hours in each direction. The time alone is something that most of our community doesn’t feel they have to offer, and that’s not to mention the physical exhaustion association with biking that far. What’s an eco-enthusiast to do?
The Park & Ride event was designed as a solution to that problem. Participants met at various Metro Transit Park & Ride locations throughout the Twin Cities and rode in together to ARCC, dramatically shortening their bike commutes but still allowing them to receive the benefits of it. The Park & Ride strategy turned the St. Paul faculty member’s 44 mile round trip ride into an 18.6 mile one, and most of that was through beautiful trails along the Mississippi River.
Choosing the right gear can make your bike commute a much more enjoyable experience. Beyond the bike, you’ll also want a water bottle cage and water bottle, front and real tail lights in case you find yourself biking at night (thanks to Pioneer Cycle, some of our students were the recipients of brand new water bottles and tail lights for their rides!), and a sturdy lock (we recommend a U-lock). Another smart investment is a pannier bag, which allows you to carry a change of clothes, a repair kit, a snack, and anything else you might need along the ride or once reaching your destination. Pannier bags can be attached and removed easily from a rear rack and come in a variety of styles. While they will cost a little up front, think of all of the money you’re saving on gas! Finally, front and rear fenders can help to keep you from getting the dreaded “stripe” up your back (see below). If you do find yourself with the dreaded “stripe,” remember that ARCC has showers available in the Health and Wellness Center, as well as a brand new bike repair station by the bike racks for any repair needs.
In case you need more incentive to try biking, there are enormous environmental benefits from pedaling on two wheels. Check out this sampling of statistics from PeopleforBikes:
“If 20% of short car trips were replaced by bicycle trips in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin, it would prevent 57,405 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted, a value of $1.2 million.
Grabow, M., et al., 2010 – Valuing Bicycling’s Economic and Health Impacts in Wisconsin, January 2010
There are 800 million car parking spaces in the U.S., totaling 160 billion square feet of concrete and asphalt. The environmental impact of all car parking spaces adds 10 percent to the CO2 emissions of the average automobile.
Chester, M., et al., 2010 – Parking infrastructure: energy, emissions, and automobile life-cycle environmental accounting, Environmental Research Letters, 5
A NASA analysis found that motor vehicles are the greatest contributor to atmospheric warming because they release pollutants and greenhouse gases that promote warming, while emitting few aerosols that counteract it.
NASA, 2010 – Road Transportation Emerges as Key Driver of Warming
Bicycle traffic in Copenhagen prevents 90,000 tons of CO2 from being emitted annually.
City of Copenhagen, 2010 – Bicycle Account, 2010“
Ready to pedal off into the sunset (or at least to class)? We are too! Look out for our forthcoming Transit Survey, which will help us to understand current commuting habits and to gauge what barriers ARCC community members have to biking to campus. Happy Biking!