Americans have shown that they want to combat climate change by reducing GHG emissions, but the best way to do it can seem overwhelming. Here’s one big idea to share with your employees and multifamily residents: Get out of your combustion engine car. Switching to a bike for your commute will increase wellness while reducing GHG emissions.

Here are four ways to change up the commute or get out of the driver’s seat:

  1. Take public transportation such as light rail or bus
  2. Ride share and carpool so there are fewer cars on the road
  3. Drive low-emissions or electric vehicles instead of conventional combustion engine vehicles. Even electric vehicles powered by dirty energy net 5lbs less GHG emissions per mile than conventional vehicles.
  4. Participate in and encourage bike commuting.

Following a 2015 EPA study on the American carbon footprint, commuting to and from work and general transportation represents 27% of the carbon pie Americans produce (5.4 tons annually; or 990 lbs. monthly).

Let’s dive deeper into that last one – Riding a bike is – literally – as simple as riding a bike.

It’s not as though cycling to work is a revolutionary idea – cycling has been a common mode of transportation since before cars were the go-to commute option. Many leading countries still rely heavily on cycling as a mode of commuting. Denmark and the Netherlands support a bike-commuting population that accounts for more than 25% of their work force, while Japan and China are each approaching 20%. The US is under 3%, and that number is falling. Same with our northern Canadian neighbors. Think of the impact that a modest jump might have?

Fig 1. 2015 bicycle mode percentages. ITDP 2015.

Consider this: A recent study from the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and UC Davis measured the hypothetical carbon reduction associated with converting 14% of the work population to cycling by the year 2050. The adoption of bike-friendly urban policies and a general shift of transportation up to 14% cyclists would result in a cumulative carbon footprint lower than today’s, despite the hypothetical growth in population of more than 112 million more Americans by 2050. And if the remaining vehicles on the road were zero emissions electric vehicles operated by clean energy, we’d all be breathing easier.

Hanna Swaintek had a great post about the role that electric cars will play in stopping global warming, and it’s worth a read! We’re inspired by our client, Vulcan Inc.’s work on vehicle electrification through the Smart City Challenge.

Fig 2. Annual CO2 emissions from urban transport in BAU (business as usual) to HSC (high shift to 14% cyclists), ITDP 2015.
Fig 2. Annual CO2 emissions from urban transport in BAU (business as usual) to HSC (high shift to 14% cyclists), ITDP 2015.

Biking momentum is growing

The best news of all: policy makers in leading cities are already thinking of ways to make it easier and safer to commute via bike.


If you’re in the greater Seattle area, the city already has much of the bike infrastructure in place to commute on your bike, with more on the way. A dedicated protected bike lane was recently installed in downtown Seattle along Second Avenue. The Burke-Gilman trail also provides convenient access between North Seattle and Kirkland. The Inter-Urban trail connects Seattle to Shoreline.


Austin is one of ten cities that was designated by PeopleForBikes as a leading city for bike commuting. The city has demonstrated a vigorous commitment to biking by expanding bike lanes and off street trails like the east-west Armstrong bikeway with a goal of doubling the city’s bicycle usage for commuting within the city core.

Washington D.C.

D.C. has been aggressively adding bike lanes, and bike commuters are on the rise. In fact, according to WTOP, DC ranks third in the nation for bike commuters, beating Seattle and tying San Francisco.  Thanks to improvements in infrastructure and education, the number of D.C. residents who bike to work jumped from 2.2% in 2010 to 4% in 2015 with an average of 1200 new cyclists riding away from their cars each year. Some neighborhoods like Bloomingdale, Mt. Pleasant, and Petworth boast much higher numbers with well over 20% of residents commuting by bicycle.

Doing our part at Paladino

I’m particularly excited about cycling to work because Paladino’s Seattle team recently participated in the “Cascade Bike Month Challenge” specifically to reduce our GHG emissions!

In May, four Paladino colleagues took part in the Cascade Bike Month challenge, commuting at least 3 times per week and logging each trip. In May the team biked 1,066 miles, and in the process burned 39,500 calories (equivalent to 83 Top Pot glazed donuts!) and reduced our cumulative CO2 emissions by 455 pounds, which equates to a 113-pound reduction in total transportation-related CO2 emissions for the month on average.

These reductions from our 4-member team may seem small, but multiplied by the 8,650+ participants and the 1,519,800 miles covered in the Bike Challenge, and we can track a big reduction in GHG emissions.

And the best part of taking part in the challenge? We felt better, both mentally and physically.

I’m convinced that bikes are the transportation of the future – but they aren’t the only choice. Amanda Cunningham wrote a nice roundup of futuristic, clean transportation options.

So, as climate change remains a growing issue in the United States and globally, we can each do our part by taking little steps, or cycling a few miles, one day at a time.





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