Prior to the pandemic, three-quarters of Americans drove alone to work each day. This car-centric commute has been wreaking havoc on our health and the planet. Pollution from our gas-powered vehicles cuts short thousands of American lives each year while thousands more are killed in automobile crashes. Simply sitting in traffic for extended periods of time can increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure as well as lead to higher levels of stress and depression.
Beyond causing us personal suffering, our car-dominated transportation decisions are causing more extreme temperatures, shifting weather patterns and an increased prevalence of deadly diseases around the world. Transportation is now our nation’s number one source of greenhouse gas emissions and the largest single contributor to the climate crisis.
As more of us return to the office, it’s time to take a hard look at how we get around. Friday, May 21, is Bike to Work Day; we should use this opportunity to start choosing healthier and more sustainable options that are already readily available to us.
Bicycling is a truly incredible means of transportation. As a decade-long bike commuter, I’ve cherished my daily dose of fresh air on the way to work and the ability to stretch my legs while others sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic. But what about all of those big hills you ask? Do not fear, e-bikes are here and ready to ride.
Along with being easier to pedal, e-bikes are also easier on people’s wallets than cars. With lower maintenance, fuel and insurance costs, owning an e-bike is vastly cheaper – we’re talking thousands of dollars over just a few years – than owning and operating a conventional vehicle.
Getting more commuters out of carbon-spewing cars and onto clean-running e-bikes would also help us reduce our country’s carbon footprint while simultaneously cleaning up our air. Increases in street level emissions have led to a rise in pollution-related health problems — such as asthma, lung disease, and premature death — across the country, especially in children, teens and the elderly. Switching to e-bikes could help us improve Americans’ health and clear up our skies.
So why haven’t more of us made the switch? The answer is two-fold: safety and upfront cost.
Even with the environmental and health benefits, as well as the long-term savings they provide, e-bikes’ high sticker price combined with our country’s lack of safe bike infrastructure is stopping many people from seizing the opportunity and ditching their cars.
Our current transportation system has been designed around moving as many gas-guzzling automobiles as quickly as possible. This obsession with vehicle speed has led to a national transportation strategy focused on roadway expansion above all else, leaving our country with millions of miles of asphalt, many of which are inefficient and dangerous, especially for those without a car.
But we can change this. By calling on political leadership to encourage active modes of travel, we can improve public health, tackle climate change and transform our transportation system so that the car is no longer the undisputed king of the road.
Fortunately, several lawmakers are already working to do just this. Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts recently reintroduced the Complete Streets Act, which would require state agencies to allocate a percentage of their federal funds for projects that apply safety features — like bike lanes and sidewalks — to certain transit corridors.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jimmy Panetta of California and Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon recently filed the E-BIKE Act, which proposes a new refundable tax credit of up to $1,500 for the purchase of a new e-bike, in the hopes that this will begin to transform the way Americans get around.
If passed, these pieces of legislation would make it safer, more affordable and more pleasant for people to bike, giving people across the country a viable alternative to personal vehicles and the ability to choose a car-less lifestyle.
Rarely do we have the chance to hit the lifestyle reset button. Let us take this opportunity as we return to the workplace to reevaluate our transportation patterns and build a healthier, cleaner world for tomorrow.
Check out our new video below for more on how you can help transform transportation by supporting consumer tax credits for electric bikes.