Wall: Pedal power can drive change

Annual Bike to Work Day takes place on Monday, May 28, and the Western community is encouraged to make an eco-friendly commute by biking, walking, taking public transit or even carpooling to work. These options are environmentally preferred because driving consumes fossil fuels and produces greenhouse gases.

According to an Environmental Statement on the Benefits of Cycling in London, burning one litre of gasoline generates 2.4 kg of CO2 emissions. If just one person biked 2.5 km to and from work every day instead of driving, approximately 430 kg of annual greenhouse gas emissions could be prevented.

“Just more than 70 per cent of staff and students arrive on campus using a private vehicle,” said Beverley Ayeni, Western’s Energy and Environment Manager. “As part of our goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on campus, we are really encouraging everyone to consider more sustainable options.”

The Community of London Environmental Awareness Reporting Network also indicates an average Londoner uses more energy for road transportation than an average Canadian, and Canadians consume twice the amount of energy for road transportation as average Europeans. Commuting to work by biking or walking could significantly reduce the amount of energy consumed by Londoners.

In addition to environmental impacts, there are clear health and economic benefits of smart commuting.

Biking and walking are both great ways to exercise and prevent health problems. Health Canada recommends individuals between 18-64 be active for at least 2.5 hours a week. This can easily be achieved by commuting 15 minutes to and from work on foot or bike.

The Mayo Clinic has reported that for every 15 minutes biked or walked, a person burns 73 and 51 calories, respectively. Exercise also promotes endorphin production which helps relieve stress; in fact, Statistics Canada reports cyclists and walkers are the happiest commuters.

Making an eco-friendly commute can also have a significant impact on your wallet. The Canadian Automobile Association estimates combined operational and ownership costs of driving a car are approximately 66.5 cents/km driven. Alternatively, the cost of buying and maintaining a bike ranges from 3-9 cents/km.

Of course, the best option for your wallet is walking which is free.

To keep safe, cyclists should be aware of the road rules before heading out. Hand signals, eye contact and bike lights encourage good communication with other drivers on the road. Bicyclists should ride in a straight line and avoid swerving around parked cars to increase their visibility to other drivers. Mirrors can also be installed on bicycles to monitor rear traffic, and facilitate safe lane changes. In general, it is important for cyclists to use the appropriate lane and avoid riding on the shoulder of the right turning lane if continuing through the intersection.

In addition to learning bicycle safety tips, it is important to understand the by-laws and regulations for riding a bike in London.

The City of London reports collisions are more likely to occur on sidewalks between cyclists and vehicles pulling out of driveways. London’s street by-laws prohibit cyclists from riding on the sidewalk, and a fine for this offense ranges from $110-135. Furthermore, bicycles are classified as vehicles under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, and items including red and white reflective tape, a working bell or horn, working brakes, and lights are all required by law. While helmets are optional for bicyclists over 18, they are still recommended for safety.

Many services are available on campus to facilitate cyclists.

The Campus Community Police Service provides bicycle safety, bicycle theft prevention and bicycle registration programs throughout the year. Several bike racks are conveniently located near building entrances on campus, and a bicycle pump is available behind Lawson Hall. Cyclists also have access to shower facilities in buildings across campus including the Western Student Recreation Centre, the Student Support Services Building, and the Thompson Engineering Building.

The City of London also provides resources for cyclists including a Bike and Walk Map showing the types and distances of routes throughout the city. This map can be accessed online, or picked up at bicycle stores, libraries and City Hall in London. The city is also hosting the London Bicycle Festival from May 25-June 14. Some events include ‘pay-what-you-can tuneups’, bike safety skill workshops, and leisurely bike rides throughout city.

More information, visit londonbicyclefestival.tumblr.com.

Biking can be a safe and enjoyable alternative to commuting by car. The health, economic and environmental payoffs are clear, and even one person can make a difference by choosing to bike or walk instead of drive.

You can do your part by riding your bike to work on May 28, or by learning how to make an eco-friendly commute every day.

Katie Wall, a graduate student in the Masters of Environment and Sustainability program at Western, is currently working with Facilities Management as an environmental project co-ordinator on campus.