Friday, May 13, 2011

Commute Green Challenge ... Indeed!

Apparently May is National Running Month. It also happens to be National Bike Month.

I’m honestly not sure where some of these designated “holidays” originate or why these two sports would be celebrated during the same month. But in the interest of enjoying spring-time and the ability to get outside, I’ve decided to participate.

Commute Green New Hampshire is challenging New Hampshire residents (and out-of-staters who work in New Hampshire) to reduce 50,000 vehicle miles this week as part of its annual Statewide Challenge.

The group says this annual promotion is designed to get “you, your friends, neighbors, co-workers and employers to choose inexpensive, healthier and more environmentally-friendly transportation options.”

The idea is to save us money, help reduce stress, and get us to enjoy and preserve New Hampshire’s beautiful landscape. You can also log your miles on Commute Green’s website ( for prizes and discounts at participating stores and restaurants.

More than 60 New Hampshire businesses and schools have registered as part of the “team” challenge. Individuals, like me, can also participate by logging miles online.

We’re supposed to carpool, bicycle, walk and use public transportation to work, school, shopping and similar trips this week, which coincides with National Bike to Work Day and Walk to Work Day on Friday. (I’d assume if you wanted to run to work, that would be okay, too.)

I participated in National Bike to Work two years ago, just about a month after I got my bike. It was fun and different, and I swore I’d use my bike to commute to work more often.

It never happened again.

Biking to work certainly takes some planning, especially for those of us who can’t attend meetings in cycling-appropriate clothes and prefer not to sport the helmet-head look all day.

Luckily, I have access to a shower and locker room at work so I can do a modified version of my morning routine there.

However, my bike isn’t exactly a commuter-style ride. It doesn’t have saddlebags or any other way to carry my change of clothes, shower items or anything else I might need for the day. Definitely another obstacle to this bike-to-work idea.

After I decided to participate in the Commute Green Statewide Challenge, I asked a few friends who sporadically commute by bike or foot for advice. The most common tip was to plan, plan, plan.

Many suggested starting the workweek by car (sorry, Commute Green) to transport any necessities for my cycling or running days during the week. That means I’ll need to find a place to keep these clothes and other items. One regular bike commuter even suggested keeping a pop-up wardrobe in my office – advice that I won’t be taking, at least not for this one-week challenge.

Another helpful tidbit I picked up was to use the “transport day” to bring along food for the week, including lunches and snacks. Since I’ll be burning calories on your way to work, I’ll likely be hungrier during the day, and I’ll also need to plan a fueling snack before the trip home.

I’ve also had to consider my work schedule, which often takes me around town to various events and meetings. I’ve tried my best to cluster my off-site appointments to coincide with my “transport” day, but this definitely took a bit of planning. (I’m also paying for it the following week with a jam-packed week of meetings around town.)

As if all of these logistics don’t add enough of a challenge, I’ve also had to think about the basics, like the route I’ll take. My normal driving route takes me via the highway, so I’ll opt for a path through downtown. I still need to find a reasonable way to avoid Manchester’s Amoskeag Circle.

Oh, and there’s the weather. I’ve looked at the forecast and it doesn’t look ideal for someone looking to venture into green commuting, especially someone who is admittedly a fair-weather cyclist.

I think I’m remembering now why I only commuted by bike once. It’s not just as easy as hopping on my bike and hitting the road. Ideally, it sounds wonderful. Realistically, it’s tougher than you’d think. It will be an interesting experiment, indeed.

I’m looking forward to giving it a try, even if I only get in a day or two of non-motorized commuting. I hope to get in at least one bike-to-work commute and, fingers crossed, a run to and from work. I’ll log a little more than eight miles for each one-way commute I do.

At any rate, I’ll give it my best shot. Perhaps you will do the same.

If running or cycling to work just isn’t your thing this week, telecommuting and carpooling “count” toward the Statewide Challenge.

If that’s still doesn’t do it for you, a quick online search of wacky holidays showed me that today “National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day.” Now that’s something I can easily celebrate.

Teresa Robinson is Community Relations Manager for the New Hampshire Union Leader. Her column appears in the New Hampshire Sunday News every other week. Her email address is

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