Transportation has evolved to become one of the most important aspects of everyday life. Our society wouldn’t be possible without effective transportation, but over the last few decades, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, statistics verify how detrimental automobiles can be to the environment. People need to start making efforts to lessen their carbon footprint by limiting their automobile usage.
Driving has undoubtedly been a convenient way of getting from point A to point B, but our society has been conditioned to believe it’s the only way. Whether traveling to the grocery store or a friend’s house, students tend to choose driving over walking or biking. These decisions add up and become habitual, but the entire idea of reducing our carbon footprints is to make conscious efforts to not play a part in the depletion of our planet.
The average travel radius for Virginia Tech students living in Blacksburg is no more than 5 miles. While driving seems efficient and effortless, people must find other ways to travel whenever they can for the sake of the environment and to reduce traffic. In the Blacksburg community, biking is the best option. Biking is not only environmentally friendly but can be quicker than most car trips due to all of the available bike lanes throughout the city, which often move faster than traffic. When classes are in session and everyone takes the bus or drives to campus, there is significant road congestion that could be avoided if more students choose to ride their bikes to class.
Gregory Tew, an associate professor of architecture, spoke about his experiences using public transportation during his time living in New York City.
“The subways were fine but often off-schedule, not the most reliable and it only gets you so far,” Tew said. “The station was a 10-minute walk from my apartment but when I arrived at the other end, I might have another five- to 10-minute walk to get to where I was going.”
People are creatures of habit, and students often travel with nothing more than a backpack. While it can be argued that bikes lack the storage found in automobiles, students are still perfectly capable of biking with a backpack on. Environmental ethics aside, it doesn’t make sense to drive through six minutes of traffic when biking can be a lot quicker in most cases. Biking has many benefits — it’s quick, fun and, most importantly, amazing for physical and mental well-being. In a January 2020 Healthline article, author Emily Cronkleton touches on all of the pros, cons and tips of riding a bike.
“I feel sure that even going from Brooklyn to Manhattan, I could’ve gotten there as fast or even faster on a bicycle, probably faster,” Tew said.
Going back to the impact that automobiles have on global warming, it’s important to note why cars can be harmful. Cars produce a significant amount of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides and overall are heavy carbon dioxide emitters and air polluters, as evidenced in an article by The World Counts. Similar to many other environmental issues, this can be avoided, or at the very least reduced, with the power of conscious decisions in everyday life, such as choosing to bike the five minutes to Kroger rather than driving. In a real-time data story by The World Counts, statistics show alarming numbers contributing to the depletion of our atmosphere.
“Driving is the number one cause for climate change,” Tew said. “We just aren’t going to be able to make progress with those climate issues if we don’t completely rethink transportation.”
Many people in the United States have become so accustomed to driving without giving thought to different alternatives. Biking is the most reasonable and effective method of transportation in Blacksburg, but there are still reasons why it isn’t ideal for some. Having to decide between a bike and a car in less-than-ideal weather can be tough, but comfort can’t always be our No. 1 priority. As the British author Alfred Wainwright once said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”
Hannah Pajewski, a master’s student in urban and regional planning, said biking has worked well for her as a Virginia Tech student.
“I commute on my bike to class and work because bus routes to my apartment complex are limited and campus parking passes are expensive,” Pajewski said.
Virginia Tech stands by the motto “Ut Prosim,” which translates to “That I May Serve.” This does not mean an immediate action, but more so an ultimate goal to serve the greater good. As residents of the Blacksburg community and the Earth, people must consider different eco-friendly transportation alternatives to do their part in combating the climate crisis.