The world market controls the price of oil, the federal government controls health care, multi-national corporations control most everything else. You control how you get to work in the morning. For the past two years, I have lived and worked in Fairbanks without a motorized vehicle. I don’t have a car.
By saying “no” to owning a car, I save a lot of money and gain a lot of freedom. I don’t have to pay for car ownership, maintenance and parking fees that can alone cost at least 50 cents per mile. Better yet, I don’t have to pay ever-rising fuel costs. Between biking, running, skiing and skijoring, I can skip an expensive gym membership and stay in good health, saving on medical expenses. You don’t have to be a zealot to experience the savings. Using alternative transportation only one day per week for a year can save the typical commuter more than 1,200 miles on their vehicle and hundreds of dollars in driving costs.
Non-motorized transportation adds tangible benefits to my life. My commute to work often is the best part of my day. It’s my time to decompress, travel slowly and enjoy our town’s beautiful trails and seasons. Switching up my transportation to adjust to the seasons and conditions helps me stay flexible, grateful and connected to the place I live. I do my best thinking on my morning commute. When I arrive at work, I am more energetic, alert and productive — a benefit for me and my employer. Studies prove that active employees take fewer sick days and are more productive in the workplace.
But it’s not just good for me — non-motorized transportation is good for our community and our planet. According to the Department of Transportation, transportation accounts for 33 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and at least 25 percent of our air pollution. In our community, since 2007, the Don’t Be Fuelish Competition has conserved 18,757 gallons of gas and saved its participants $71,762.
I made a simple choice — to burn calories, not gas. It’s not a choice we all have an equal ability to make, but everyone can participate in some way. For those with a longer commute, the option to put a bike on the bus extends the effective reach of the bikeways network. Non-motorized commuting and public transportation is good for the air, it’s good for your health and it’s good for your wallet. But don’t take my word for it — try if for yourself.
May is National Bike Month and May 14-18 is Fairbanks Bike to Work Week. Bike to Work Fairbanks is being coordinated by the Fairbanks Metropolitan Area Transportation System, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, Northern Region, the Fairbanks Downtown Association, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Green Star and the Fairbanks Cycle Club. You can learn more at www.BikeToWorkFairbanks.com.
Jenna Hertz is the Arctic grassroots organizer and events coordinator at the Northern Alaska Environmental Center.