Untapped energy potential.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the obstacles people have to thinking of cycling as viable transportation is that they tend to think in terms of modes rather than trips.

We too often break up the world into cyclists and drivers, without considering that most of us, at one time or another, are both. For most people, myself included, the bike can’t completely replace the car, at least not without major infrastructure changes.

But as I ride through the wide, quiet streets of my inner-ring suburb and see bike upon bike hanging in garages, I realize how much potential there is for people to ride instead of drive, even if it’s only a couple of times a week.

That’s where the 2 Mile Challenge comes in. It’s a fundraising and advocacy effort that aims to reduce the short trips that make up a significant chunk of our driving.

It works like this. You join a “team” on the website, and log your bike trips. The more trips your team takes, the more money one of three participating nonprofits will receive for your efforts.

While most people aren’t going to take on a daily commute or a six-bag grocery run on a bike, what about that Saturday trip to the library? Or the neighborhood yard-sale cruise? Or the trip to the hardware store for that one little washer you need to fix the kitchen faucet? Those little trips add up.

Taking on those short trips, especially where time is not a factor, has always struck me as a better gateway to cycling than the daily commute, where you have to worry about showing up on time and not looking like you’ve just spent the night outside. The key is getting people to start seeing bikes as transportation, not just recreation.

True, most people are only going to ride in summer. But that’s also when demand for gasoline (and, in turn, prices) is highest.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that cycling alone is going to make a significant dent in our oil consumption. But it’s a piece of the puzzle — when people are able to take control of their energy use, it makes us more flexible in the face of market swings.

What’s the harm in that?

Photo by Gregory P. Smith via Creative Commons

Ken is the director of the Vxartnews at Fresh Energy, and has led the project from its inception as Midwest Energy News in 2009. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he held a variety of editing, production, and leadership roles, and played a key role in the newspaper's transition to digital-first publishing. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon.