2 Mile Challenge

May is Bike to Work Month, and locally that means participating in the Group Health Commute Challenge. Alas, I work at home. It’s the ultimate way to reduce the carbon footprint of my commute, but it means I can’t join the biggest cycling event of the year.

What’s a girl to do?

I could just decide to ride my bike for 10 miles in the morning and 10 miles at the end of the day for fun, but that sort of kills the spirit of the event, which is to find ways to trade in your car for your bicycle. I decided instead to sign up for Clif Bar’s 2 Mile Challenge.

According to Clif’s website, 40% of all urban travel in the US happens within two miles of where people live. Nearly all that travel is by car! What they didn’t say is that most of the pollution emitted by a car in a trip is within the first few miles, while the car is warming up. Clif Bar created the 2 Mile Challenge as a game to see how many car trips could be replaced with a bike instead.

Here’s the map, showing the 2-mile radius around my house.

I see a couple challenges already:

First, all of my regular grocery stores – PCC, Safeway, Trader Joes, and Costco are in the 2-mile radius. Yes, I’m going to have to make Costco runs on my bicycle. This could be an interesting experiment in multiple trips to the same store if I need to buy more than I can carry in my grocery panniers.

Second, I live on top of a hill. No matter which way I go, it’s downhill from here and uphill to get home. Riding uphill loaded with cans of tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, apples, cat food, soy milk, and other heavy grocery items will certainly make my quads a lot stronger! I’m not complaining. I mean, I used to carry crates of sparkling water up six flights of stairs to my home in Germany. I’m just acknowledging the challenge!

Finally, my local coffee shop is in the 2-mile radius. You wouldn’t think it’s a big deal, but I frequently meet people there needing to look nice – as in suit nice. Maybe some of those trips I’ll do by foot in slightly more casual clothing than a suit and make an exception for the suit days. I’ll have to think about this more. I hate to start making exceptions, if I can figure out a way to make it work.

Even though it’s not May yet, I’m going to start today – a test run if you will. Costco, here I come!

Update: I did my first two trips by bike today. The first was to PCC and Costco. Everything was fine, except maybe the tortilla chips. I might have a few extra crushed ones thanks to the tight fit in my panniers. Then it was down the street to Safeway. All in all, I estimate that I hauled about 30 pounds of groceries home. Not bad for my first trip. The total time it took for grocery shopping at the three stores was only 90 minutes – about 20 minutes longer than normal. I didn’t really mind though, because I was killing two birds with one stone – shopping and exercise. It really helped that the it wasn’t raining. I’m not sure how I would keep my groceries dry in the rain.

2 comments for “2 Mile Challenge

  1. Martin Knowles
    April 28, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Way to ride, Carrie !

    I use various sizes of the Ziploc Big Bags storage bags for bike-with-anything waterproofing. The XL and XXL sizes – at 10 and 20 gallons – cover a lot of capacity. They are both fairly durable and fairly cheap.

    While I’m nowhere near the organized planner you are with regards to grocery shopping, I find that more smaller loads is easy to deal with while biking. After all, that’s not “less efficient” as it would be in a car, it’s more opportunities to get out and ride!

    Just for reference, my daily commute is only 4.8 miles one way, but I haven’t driven to work at all since February of 2009. (I wussed out then with a busted chain on a 34 degree rainy day at 5:30 in the morning, sorry about that:) Not the same as your current employment situation, since I have to go, but I assure you it is sometimes tough kicking my own butt out the door – worth it tho !

    • Carry
      April 28, 2011 at 3:40 pm

      Those ziplock bags are HUGE! I basically need to figure out how to keep things like 3 lb bags of tortilla chips and rolls of parchment paper (that stick out the top of my bag) dry if it were to rain. Most of the rest of my haul is usually produce, canned and frozen goods. (Who cares if that gets wet?)

      Awesome job with the bike commuting. Every day for 2+ years is quite the record.

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