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Celebrate Earth Day on Two Wheels … or Two Feet

April 22nd, 2010 by

  • The estimated number of bicycle commuters in New Jersey is approximately 12,000, or 0.3 percent, according to the 2005-2007 American Community Survey. An estimated 3.4 percent of New Jerseyans walk to work.
  • New Jersey ranks third to last in per-capita spending of federal transportation dollars on bicycle and pedestrian projects, according to the T4America campaign.
  • Transportation represents the largest, and fastest-growing, segment of New Jersey’s carbon footprint at 35 percent, compared to a national average of 26 percent.
  • Air pollution and carbon emissions from riding a bicycle or walking = zero.

Federal, State Policies Should Encourage Biking, Walking

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, one easy way to reduce our ecological footprint is to change our travel behavior. Riding a bicycle or walking represents an affordable and convenient way to get around, particularly for short distances, and travel by bike or foot is eco-friendly.

The 2001 National Household Travel Survey reported that 48 percent of trips taken in metropolitan areas are for distances of less than three miles, and 28 percent for less than one mile. Yet despite these ideal biking/walking distances, the survey found that 65 percent of trips less than one mile are taken by car.

As New Jersey strives to reduce emissions from the transportation sector in order to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals, turning these short auto trips into a walk or a bike ride would be a good place to start. During the 2009 gubernatorial campaign, then-candidate and now-Governor Chris Christie, in response to New Jersey Future’s Smart Growth Questionnaire, suggested, “New Jersey will decrease its dependence on automobiles only if we provide a meaningful alternative.”

New Jersey ranks third among states in the percentage of households not owning a vehicle (11.4 percent) and fourth for households owning either one or zero vehicles (45.1 percent). Yet, since 1970, vehicle miles traveled in New Jersey has increased at a rate four times faster than the state’s population—thanks in large part to the sprawling, auto-dependent development that has prevailed in recent decades. This increase has helped make transportation the largest, and fastest-growing, contributor to the state’s overall carbon footprint.

With these numbers in mind, it makes sense to encourage pedestrian and bicycle behavior by constructing safe roads and routes that accommodate all users. As an advocate for “Complete Streets”, New Jersey Future was encouraged when former Department of Transportation Commissioner Stephen Dilts signed a statewide policy last fall.

From 2005-2008, just 0.5 percent of New Jersey’s total federal transportation funding was spent on pedestrian and bicycle projects. A recent Transportation for America national survey, revealed overwhelming support (82 percent) for improving public transportation, including trains and buses, to make it easier to walk, bike and reduce traffic congestion.   These numbers support U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s recent promise to end preferential treatment of motorized transportation and the resulting federal policy change.

National Bike Month is coming up in May and many regions, companies and communities will participate in Bike to Work Week events. But why wait another month? Start biking today; reduce your carbon footprint, improve your health and save money by continuing to do so in the future.

And for those trips that must be taken by car, please watch for cyclists. Contrary to conventional wisdom, bicyclists have the right to share the road and in New Jersey, you are legally obligated to give them 3 feet of space.  Ride safely!

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7 Responses to “Celebrate Earth Day on Two Wheels … or Two Feet”

  1. I completely agree, however, even new projects like the new Hudson River Tunnel do not take into account bike travel from Newark to New York. Here in Secaucus, NJ no bike paths exist. In Edison, NJ where I live, (I commute on NJ Transit), no bike paths exist. I think this is a local planning issue, a state issue and a federal issue. Until the resolve is in place that something must be done on all levels, we will continue on with the unsustainable.

    Today, on Earth Day, we gather to plant a garden by the side of our building. By planting a plant and caring for it we capture the spirit of Earth Day everyday and join it to the dedication that we must have for the future. A future in which we all must make a difference.

    I agree we should ride bikes, but without safe bike lanes we compete with semi-tractor trailers! Perhaps the builders of tunnels and bridges should take a leadership role and include bike lanes.

  2. Kate Bernyk says:

    This is a very timely post, not just because of Earth Day, but also because of the recent budget cuts to mass transportation in New Jersey. With these outrageous fare hikes, the budget gap is being closed on the backs of many New Jerseyans who make the right choice walk or ride to their nearest train or bus station.

    It’s a sad Earth Day when more people are being forced to get back in their cars. I hope we can start to see some pressure on state, federal and local policymakers to encourage less personal vehicle usage, and more mass transit, bicycling and walking.

    Speaking of National Bike Month – if you live in the Mercer County and Trenton area, be sure to sign up for the Trenton Bike Tour on May 22, 2010! Online registration for this leisurely and historic 15 mile tour can be found at!

  3. […] you got to celebrate Earth Day by riding your bike. As I wrote over at Garden State Smart Growth, one easy way to reduce our ecological footprint is to change our travel behavior. Riding a bicycle […]

  4. Joseph Fatton says:

    Great ideas and not just because of the timely Earth Day and Bike to Work tie-ins (and not just because the author happens to be my nephew!). It does take a conscious effort to change behavior, and thoughtlessly relying on a car for routine short trips is an easy habit to break. I live in the Southwest where the weather is ideal for biking and walking; Sante Fe, NM ( city of 150,000) has an extensive network of bike trails (more than 30 miles in all) connecting its many neighborhoods and the downtown/Plaza area. So tell your friends from spinning class that you’ll meet them “out in the streets” for fresh air and a change of habit!

  5. Rob & Vinnie says:

    You said it.. Even if people ride one day a week it would make a substantial difference!!! C’mon everyone!

  6. Winnie Fatton says:

    In addition to all of the great facts mentioned above, biking and walking is a great way to combat another of the issues facing our country and state — obesity. While it’s not always feasible to walk or bike, offering more transit options is certainly a goal to pursue!

  7. says:

    in my opinion your article is very nice and very helpful

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