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Riding a bicycle instead of driving your personal vehicle is a great way to stay in shape, reduce emissions, and save money. In regards to health, cycling improves cardiovascular health, reduces risk of disease, builds muscle, improves mental health, and whole variety of other benefits as well 1. Even further, every gallon of gasoline burned for transportation produces 19 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions 2. Riding a bike or walking to your destination is the most carbon friendly transportation option available, producing zero lifecycle emissions. Finally, with a U.S. average gasoline price between $2-3 a gallon, think about how much money you could save a year by not consuming any gasoline to get to and from work. Obviously, the further your trip, the greater the potential annual cost savings. In many cases, places of employment, schools, and other necessities are accessible via greenways, sidewalks, and bicycle friendly streets. To find out whether your commute or destination is accessible via cycling or walking, check out our Map Your Commute tool.
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Idling vehicles on average burn between 1/5 to 1 gallon of gasoline/diesel per hour 3. That’s like spending $2 – 3 on a gallon of gasoline but moving nowhere. On top of that, idling engines emit harmful pollutants such as volatile organic compounds, Carbon Monoxide, and Nitrogen Oxides 4. Each of these pollutants diminishes air quality and has a very noticeable impact in areas of high congestion. This is especially a concern for areas of vulnerable populations, such as local schools. In many instances, large volumes of traffic congregate near schools while picking up and dropping off children. During this time, vehicles that leave their engines on emit harmful pollutants that can trigger respiratory diseases such as asthma attacks. The EPA states that asthma is actually the leading cause of school absenteeism with 10.5 million days missed annually 5.
To improve air quality around local schools, the NC Department of Transportation has set up Safe Routes to School, a program dedicated to encouraging school children to walk or bike to school instead of riding with parents. The EPA has also developed a Idle Free Schools Toolkit to help implement anti-idling programs at your school as well. To view the American Lung Association’s report card on air quality in all 100 NC counties, check out their State of the Air Report
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Ridesharing services have become more and more prevalent recently through the widespread use of smartphone applications such as Uber and Lyft. These services make it incredibly easy for riders to hail a vehicle to a location of their choosing on demand. In many instances, these vehicles are shared with other riders in the same area heading towards the same destination. These services help to reduce the amount of vehicles on the road and fill the unoccupied spaces in the vehicles still on the road.
Carpooling is a similar option but instead of being a paid service, it’s an arrangement between multiple riders heading to the same destination. Often times this agreement is comprised of a rotation of driving duties. For example, on the first day, one driver uses their vehicle and on the second day, the other drive uses his or her vehicle. This arrangement helps to minimize the number of vehicles on the road while also helping drivers save money on fuel costs. North Carolina now offers a program called Share The Ride NC to help match carpool partners together.
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In the United States, nearly 35 million trips are taken each and every weekday using public transportation options. In total, these bus and rail networks deliver over 10.7 billion trips per year. These public transportation trips help to reduce congestion, improve air quality, enhance health, and help riders save money on fuel and vehicle costs. On average, an individual commuter saves approximately $10,000 a year by electing to use public transportation options instead of driving a personal vehicle 6. On top of that, transit commuters reduce their carbon footprint by nearly 4800 pounds of carbon dioxide each year 7. To find out more about public transportation options located near you, visit the NC Public Transportation Association’s statewide system map.