Pedal Power for a Sustainable Future

A rider with the California Climate Ride pedals for the planet. Photo: Climate Ride

By Erica Flock, EarthShare Online Manager

I grew up in Southeast Michigan, home of the Motor City. Meet anyone from the Detroit-area and chances are you can unearth a story about a family member or friend who works for the auto industry. My own great-grandfather worked at the very first Ford assembly plant in Highland Park, MI.

It’s safe to say the automobile is in my blood. That’s why when I sold my car in 2012, I was going against some pretty potent DNA. Turns out I’m not alone: the number of American households without a car has doubled in the last two decades.

Now I live in Washington, DC and get around by Metro, bus and walking. But by far my favorite mode of transportation is biking. Nothing compares to whooshing down a tree-lined hill with your freewheel buzzing and the warm sun on your face.

The growth of cycling is good for everyone: people who commute by bike have higher levels of satisfaction than those who use other forms of transportation, they’re healthier, and they provide a huge boost to local businesses. Even motorists benefit: more people biking and taking transit means less congestion on the roads.

This simple, satisfying machine is also the answer to so many of our environmental challenges. Even small improvements in our biking and walking infrastructure could avoid 70 billion miles driven in cars. That would put a dent in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, 28% of which come from the transportation sector. Just take a look at how Vancouver has done it:


EarthShare member Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is making it easier for cyclists to get from point A to B. Not only do they support a growing network of 1,400 rail-trails around the country, they’re also working to ensure that 90% of Americans live within three miles of a trail system by 2020 through their Campaign for Active Transportation.

Part of why I decided to go carfree in 2012 was my proximity to a rail-trail that made it easy for me to get to work by bike. Rather than sit in traffic after a day at the office, I get to pedal through the forested Capital Crescent Trail on my way home. And each ride reveals new discoveries: turtles, snakes, butterflies, the changing seasons.

To support organizations that are making commutes like mine possible for more people, I decided to sign up for the Climate Ride this year. This September, I’ll join about 200 riders as they pedal their bikes from New York City to Washington DC. Over the past five years, Climate Riders have raised over $1 million for groups like Rails-to-Trails Conservancy that are tackling our most pressing environmental issues and making our communities more vibrant and healthy places to live.

2012 NYC to DC riders arrive at the Capitol Building / Photo: Climate Ride

If someone like me, a person raised in the suburbs of the Motor City, can travel the 300 miles between New York and DC on nothing but human muscle, imagine what else is possible if we begin working for the world we want? 

My ideal world is one in which our energy comes from the sun and wind rather than from burning fossil fuels, and where kids and adults alike can safely get where they need to go without needing to rely on cars. If you’d like to help get us there, read Rails-to-Trails report, Active Transportation for America or visit the Climate Ride website. And be sure to read our tips on getting there by bike. 


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Darren Blankenship

Good luck Erica! Sounds like a great ride.

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