Thousands of people are taking the BreatheLife Challenge by walking, cycling or taking public transport instead of driving for the equivalent of a marathon (42.2 kms (26.2 miles). If you haven’t joined the Challenge yet, you can learn more here.
By participating, you are cutting down on air pollution in your city and gaining lots of health benefits by doing what our bodies are made to do: move. With places like Germany, the birthplace of diesel engines, banning diesel vehicles, you’re also supporting a powerful movement to reclaim our cities for people, health and cleaner air.
No matter what mode of travel you’ll be using on your Challenge, here is a quick guide to get pumped for your first week.
Pick your Challenge days. Completing 42.2kms for your clean air marathon may feel daunting, but commuters in the U.S. live an average of 12 kms (7.7 miles) from their workplace, so you may reach the finish line in 4 commutes or less. To keep you on track, mark one Challenge day each week and plan around that. Don’t worry if you miss a few days, you’ve got plenty more before the end of the month to make up the distance.
Have a plan B. Inclement weather may foil your Challenge from time to time, but you can always switch to public transport or take a “cheat day” until the weather clears. To keep the spirit of your Challenge alive on these days, consider carpooling with co-workers or pooling on a local rideshare app.
Keep a post-Challenge outfit. If it rains more unexpectedly or you work up a sweat, a fresh set of clothes as well as another pair of shoes is a good idea if something other than athletic shoes is preferable at work.
Be safe (of course). Ideally, all cities would have bike paths along with cyclist-aware motorists, but that’s not always the case. Wearing a helmet is highly recommended. Also, beware of parked cars — many people open car doors and step out without looking. Check out Cyclist Weekly for more tips on commuting by bike from the experts.
Find your closest bikeshare station. If you don’t already own a bike, consider a local bikeshare, a rapidly growing, convenient service in urban centres. Offerings are different in each city, but as of March 2018 a quick search for “bike share station” in Apple Maps will display the closest stations in 175 cities and over 36 countries.
Lock it up. Many cities are playing catch-up to add infrastructure for the growing number of cyclists, so you may need to get resourceful with storing your bike. If your office is in a safe area, look for a nearby bike rack the day before your first ride or ask your facilities manager if bikes can be stored inside.
Shine bright. If your commute is early in the morning or after dusk, ensure your bike has reflectors or consider reflective bands on your clothing so motorists can easily see you. With the popularity of cycling, you can even find fashionable clothing options that incorporate reflective materials.
Avoid the smog. First, check out BreatheLife’s database of 4,000 cities to see if air pollution is elevated in your area. Even in cities with only moderate air pollution, levels can be higher at certain times, so consider starting your walk before or after heavy commuting times.
Chart your path. The shortest route may not be the safest. In some cities, choosing quieter streets away from major roads improves the safety factor, the serenity of your walk, and helps avoid air pollution hotspots. Find your best walking route with this list of route planner apps.
Plan the first and last mile. A quick Google search is likely to bring up public transit options, but often this excludes local buses in smaller cities or may not provide results if you are not within walking distance to a station. Consider if local buses or combining cycling in your commute can help close this gap.
Chill out or work it out. No traffic jams, no need to focus on the road and no searching for a parking spot. Use your new free time on public transport for a bit of self-development or creating a daily game plan. Get inspired with these stories of how commuting has helped people change their lives.
Don’t doze past your stop. Bus and train commutes can also be great for recouping a little extra sleep, however it can be easy for this to backfire by missing your stop. Avoid this rookie mistake, try a lesser known smartphone feature called “location alerts,” that rings an alarm when you near your stop.