One of my goals at the start of 2016 was to reduce trips by car and replace them with either trips by bike or trips on foot. Now that we’re almost five full months into the year, I’m happy to report that it’s working. I’ve replaced my car with my feet and bicycle almost fifty times already this year.
Fifty trips may not sound like a lot, but it really is. Since I started tracking this in early February, I’ve only taken a total of 123 trips…72 by car and 49 by bicycle or on foot. That means that I’ve reduced the car trips by 40%. Many of those 123 trips were much longer than five miles. For example, when I drove from Indiana to Utah and back in April, that was one trip. I know that it’s possible to do that trip on a bicycle, but for most of us it’s not very practical. Maybe someday I’ll do it. It would be a lot of fun.
For now, though, the focus remains on trips of five miles or less and here’s where my experiment gets really interesting. Of those 123 trips, 63 (roughly half) were five miles or less. Of those, 49 into 63 is 78%. I’ve taken 78% of all trips of five miles or less since I started tracking by bicycle. That’s real.
I’ve had challenges and surprises along the way. It’s not easy learning to ride in snow, for example, but now that I’ve done it I know it can be done. It was also initially embarrassing to see people looking at me with pity in the grocery checkout line with my helmet and backpack as if I was destitute or had a DUI that prevented me from driving. Now it makes me chuckle. If only they knew.
I started this experiment for a couple of reasons. One, I like the simple joy of riding a bike. I like riding around the block as much as I like riding 100 miles or more. It doesn’t matter how far or how long. It’s fun regardless. Two, it just made sense to me to replace a car with a bicycle for short trips. It was a way to make myself, my community and my world better while simultaneously having a good time.
When it comes right down to it, there are very few things that we can do as individuals that will significantly alter the direction of civilization and the face of the planet. There are fewer still that pay the personal rewards of vehicular cycling. Traffic congestion, air pollution, crime, mental and physical health, and overstretched fiscal budgets are all pressing problems that can be eliminated virtually overnight if more of us would simply choose a bicycle over a car for short trips of five miles or less.
I can’t do anything about the rest of us. My hands are full with me. Now that I know what I know, there’s no doubt in my mind how I’m getting around. The weather’s gonna be great this weekend. I hope you’ll join me…not so much to save the planet, but rather to simply make your own life a little better. Let’s get in a little trip reduction therapy. Find your bike. Saddle up. Ride.