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Earth Day is a day to focus on the environment and on future solutions. Bikes have an important role to play, as sustainable transportation, in creating a healthier planet.

Today is the Earth’s 47th eponymous day. Today is Earth Day 2016. The first Earth Day, celebrated in 1970, marked the beginning of the environmental movement as we know it. A lot has changed since then and a lot hasn’t. This year’s Earth Day will see the signing of the Paris Agreement, a legally-binding agreement, adopted by 195 nations, to reduce emissions and more effectively deal with global warming. (Although it is not without its detractors who claim it fails to go far enough.) Among those nations signing the agreement will be the United States.

This is a historic step towards minimizing global warming, but it’s important to remember that states are not the only actors. Individuals can play a role by adjusting their lifestyles to be more sustainable. And biking is one of the best ways to do this. By committing to shifting to cycling as your major form of transportation, you can drastically reduce your carbon footprint, helping to create a better world for us and all future generations.

Transportation is responsible for 23% of energy-related CO2 emissions and 13% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Because of this, cycling is one of the most effective ways for individuals to minimize their role in causing global warming. For each mile that someone bikes instead of driving a car, they keep one pound of greenhouse gas emissions from entering our atmosphere. Cities with residents that bike, walk, and use public transport have significantly lower CO2 transport emissions than those that are reliant on private vehicles. And bikes are significantly lower-impact than public transportation. Even when you take into account the footprint of a bike’s manufacture and maintenance, peak-hour busses, the next best after the bike, have 2.6 times the carbon emissions per passenger.

Focusing on the local situation, C-U is better positioned than most cities for bike riding. In terms of topography, we pretty much lack anything that might even potentially resemble a hill. We also lack the sprawl that characterizes so many American cities. Beyond just having the potential to be a major cycling hub, C-U has made significant efforts in developing their cycling infrastructure, though there are still many areas where progress can be made. Urbana is the only gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community in Illinois, and Champaign is just a bit behind, being certified at the bronze-level. UIUC is bronze-level Bicycle Friendly University and Savoy now in the process of putting together a bike plan. And to top it off, we have 7 Bicycle Friendly Businesses. One-third of all in the state. This doesn’t mean we don’t need to improve, though. We’re no Scandinavia.

Our northern neighbor—I’m talking about Chicago—is recognizing the natural affinity that bikes have with Earth Day by offering free 24-hour passes to use Divvy, the city’s bike-share program. In Washington, D.C., legislation to remove sales tax on bikes and bicycling accessories on Earth Day is soon up for a vote.

Champaign-Urbana has a number of events scheduled this week to promote cycling. If you’re interested in making cycling a part of your life and want to meet up with some likeminded people, there are two rides today that will give you that opportunity. The first is a campus ride with the Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson. This event is hosted by BikeFace, a student organization at UIUC whose mission is to connect student cyclists with other cyclists and cycling organizations in the community. The second is tonight’s Full Moon Ride. This is a night ride from Meadowbrook Park to Sidney, IL and is open to anyone who’s interested. Neutral will be there, heading out from the shop at around 6:30 pm. All are invited to stop by and join us!

tl;dr: Ride your bike. It’s good for the Earth and for you.

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