By Pamela Kleibrink Thompson, Photography by Pete Grady
One of my brother’s former girlfriends—the White House pastry chef—bikes to work year round in all kinds of weather. May is National Bike Month, and it’s never been a more beautiful time to bike in Boise. For fair weather bike riders like me, the weather should be no obstacle to participating in Bike to Work Week—May 11-15—and Bike to Work Day—May 15. For younger cyclists and teachers, May 6th is Bike to School Day. On Mother’s Day—May 10th—women unite worldwide for CycloFemme events.
For those of us who don’t own a bike, don’t want to walk, rollerblade, or skateboard, but still want to minimize our carbon footprint when commuting to work or school, try carpooling instead. When I lived in Los Angeles I was stuck in traffic one day when a sign advertising ride-sharing caught my eye. When I finally got home I called and for several days each week I rode in luxury down the freeway, chauffeured by a carpool partner when it wasn’t my turn to drive.
The Treasure Valley has a program called Commuteride, which connects people who live and work in similar areas and at similar times of day to share the ride. Commuteride has 100 vans on the road in the Treasure Valley, so you don’t even have to use your own car if you are in a vanpool. It’s the perfect solution for those who don’t want to drive their own cars to work while helping the environment—saving on stress, car maintenance, and fuel. Besides benefitting the environment, while traveling to and from work people who use Commuteride gain extra time to do things they can’t do while driving such as texting, napping, or reading a book. When people share the ride they also help improve air quality, reduce wear on the roadway, and alleviate traffic congestion.
Unfortunately, programs such as these are underutilized. “Only 9% of Treasure Valley commuters are taking advantage of the benefits of carpooling and vanpooling,” notes Maureen H. Gresham, AICP, Manager at the Ada County Highway District (ACHD) Commuteride. Part of the problem is many aren’t sure how to sign up. To that, Gresham simply answers, “Call Commuteride. Our job is to find a vanpool that fits your needs or help you sign up for a carpool partner.”
“To help raise awareness of the various smart commuting options, we conduct May in Motion, an annual promotional campaign that encourages businesses to promote those options to their employees,” states Gresham. “We consider any commute ‘smart’ if it provides financial, environmental, or health benefits.” Smart commuting options include biking, walking, the bus, or a vanpooling and carpooling. “Commuteride assists with vanpooling and carpooling. Valley Regional Transit assists with bus/public transportation,” notes Nicole Stern, Outreach Specialist at ACHD Commuteride.
May in Motion is a month-long program that encourages valley residents to explore transportation alternatives by providing employers the information and tools they need to incentivize their employees to use a smart commute option during May. The annual event is organized by ACHD Commuteride and Valley Regional Transit and supported by businesses concerned about the long-term vitality of the Treasure Valley. 2015 is the tenth anniversary of this important month-long campaign to raise awareness about smart commute options in the Treasure Valley.
“May in Motion is important both to the businesses that enjoy increased employee morale and for the employees that enjoy all the gains associated with choosing a smarter commute option, including incredible cost savings, health benefits, and improved air quality,” a statement from ACHD Commuteride reads.
Stern describes how May in Motion began, saying, “Circa 1992, Commuteride had a competition called Corporate Challenge, where businesses challenged each other on employee commute trips saved using smart transportation options. Corporate Challenge eventually morphed into May in Motion in 2005, helping the public to take a break from their traditional drive alone commutes through fun events throughout May in downtown Boise. In 2006, May in Motion was redesigned with awards criteria to recognize businesses for their efforts in encouraging smart transportation options for their employees.”
May in Motion challenges the way people get to work by asking them to walk, bike, carpool, vanpool, or ride the bus for the month of May. Gresham shares, “The idea is that if we get people on board—no pun intended—for one month, they will realize all the benefits associated with smart commuting and continue it the rest of the year.” Last May, 92 local businesses participated and helped remove more than 80,000 vehicle trips. This year, ACHD Commuteride anticipates over 100 businesses joining the effort. Local highway officials say using alternative transportation for just one day a week could save you about $500 in one year, and that money you saved can go a long way. If you used a smart commuting option three days a week, that would be $1500 in a year—enough for two round trip airfares from Boise to Honolulu, Hawaii.
For more information, visit commuteride.com or call the Ada County Highway Distract at (208) 345-7665, and check out bikeleague.org for more information on bike month.