Today is Bike to Work Day, and Federal employees here in Washington D.C. and in cities across the country are leaving their cars at home and biking into work. As the Administration’s Federal Chief Sustainability Officer, I always appreciate the opportunity to applaud Federal employees’ doing their part to reduce the Federal Government’s carbon footprint.
Biking to work may seem like a small step, but more sustainable commuting – be it biking, walking or using public transportation – benefits everyone. Those benefits include important emissions reductions that protect public health, but there are others as well. Anyone who’s ever been stuck in rush hour traffic understands the value of having fewer cars on the roads. And walking and biking promotes healthy living and fitness.
For many of my colleagues, Bike to Work day is part of a larger, nationally coordinated Federal Bike to Work Challenge. This challenge calls on Federal employees to form teams that encourage participants to set commitments, like bike commuting at least once a week during May. Each rider keeps track of their miles online, which spurs some friendly competition between agency teams to log the most miles.
Last year, over 2,100 Federal riders participated, 400 of them new bike commuters. They logged more than 266,000 bike commute miles, avoiding about the same number of pounds of CO2 emissions. Plus, the Federal Bike to Work Challenge has introduced new riders to bike commuting and has helped make biking an integral part of organizational culture across the Federal community. President Obama has set an aggressive goal to reduce the Federal Government’s direct greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2025 in his recent Executive Order on Federal Sustainability. Through the Executive Order, the President has directed Federal agencies to not only cut emissions from direct sources like buildings, but also from indirect sources like employee commuting. Culture changes like those promoted through the Federal Bike to Work Challenge will play an important role in helping achieve these goals.
I am proud to see initiatives like the Federal Bike to Work Challenge gain popularity each year, and was happy to see so many riders, both Feds and non-Feds, out on National Bike to Work Day today. Have fun, be safe and keep up the good work!
Kate Brandt is the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.