With the price of gasoline rising every peak travel period and the expense of traditional vehicle ownership and maintenance, looking for alternatives to gas-powered transportation makes environmental and economical sense. The Institute for Sustainable Development defines alternative transportation as commuting in ways other than driving, including walking, biking, ride sharing, and public transportation.
Aside from reducing traffic, fuel costs, and air pollution from vehicle emissions, alternatives to driving are physically and mentally healthier for people. Using public transportation has a less stressful commute than those who brave rush-hour traffic every day, and riding a bike and walking are physical activities that produce health benefits, according to GoGreenPlus.org.
AARP’s “Getting Around Guide” promotes alternative transportation as “car-free” options to driving, which include walking and biking. Of course walking is easy, free, and gentle on the body and the environment. It’s also the most popular means of transportation in the U.S. next to driving, as AARP explains. Walk to save money on gas and vehicle maintenance and you’ll stay physically fit in the process.
It takes some planning and commitment to make walking a safe and viable alternative to driving. Here are some recommendations from AARP when it comes to getting around on foot:
- Check your neighborhood routes online through sites like Map My Walk and Walkscore to find out how “walkable” your local area is and how far away your desired destinations are.
- Make sure you have a good pair of walking shoes appropriate for the weather and the terrain, or warm and slip-resistant boots for winter walking.
- Carry a cell phone and identification for safety.
If you’re in good shape and have a bicycle, riding a bike is another “car-free” means of transportation that is faster than walking. AARP reminds readers that bike riding burns 200 calories in 30 minutes and is a low-impact and aerobic activity. Take a stroll through your local area for bike paths, trails, and bike lanes. Always wear a bike helmet with a bright light, and wear reflective clothing if riding at night or in low light conditions for safety. Take a bike education class if you don’t know how to use hand signals and rules of the road for bicycles. One valuable resource is the Alliance for Biking & Walking at www.peoplepoweredmovement.org.
If you want to go longer distances while staying “car-free,” consider an electric bike. As managing director of eCycleElectric Ed Benjamin points out, although they are limited to healthy people and good weather, bikes are still a strong means of transportation, and are therefore attractive to many people across the world, according to EENews.net. Biking is very important in major cities where air quality is a major concern, like China, where bicycling has helped reduce air pollution. In the U.S., electric bikes have been gaining in popularity since 2008 when gas prices rose to $4 a gallon.
Scooters and Motorcycles
For transportation that is faster than walking and biking but still earth-friendly, there are scooters and motorcycles. They use less gas, and are more earth-friendly. At 20 to 40 miles per hour they go faster than bicycles, and they are cheaper to maintain than cars and trucks, according to the DMV. For example, tires are much less expensive to replace on scooters and motorcycles than automobiles and can often be purchased at low cost from online retailers such as Bikebandit.com. Scooters and motorcycles get almost double the gas mileage of cars at 65 to 80 miles per gallon!