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Cyclist saves money, gets healthy & cuts carbon emissions

After an accident seven years ago left Steven Garcia with a totaled car, he decided to buy a bike and a bus pass instead of a new vehicle. What started out as a bad situation when he was 25 years old, turned into a lifestyle change that is helping him get exercise, save money, avoid driving and reduce his carbon footprint.

Garcia rides his bike or the bus every work day from his Waldo Neighborhood home to downtown, where he works for the City of Kansas City, MO. He shares his advice for bicycling and using public transportation as part of our series on the Green Commute Challenge in Kansas City.

The Green Commute Challenge is a friendly competition designed to reduce emissions in the metro area by encouraging commuters to ride a bus, streetcar or scooter, bike, carpool, drive electric, walk or telecommute to work from June 1 to August 31. Individuals and teams can sign up through July 3 at Green Commute Challenge. This is the second in a series of profile stories Greenability Weekly is sharing through its partnership with RideshareKC and Mid-America Regional Council.

Q: Did you ever drive to work?

A:Before the age of 25, I solely drove to work. I have not had a car or driven to work in seven years.

Q: What motivated you to make the change?

A: I was in a car wreck that totaled my car. Once that happened, I really thought about if I needed to have a car or not. Should I spend the money on a new vehicle, or see if I could make it work without? It wasn’t an easy decision, and it took me a few months to finally decide not to purchase a new car. Ultimately, I decided that I could go to all the places I wanted to and do all my everyday tasks without a vehicle.

Q: How did you get started bicycling and taking the bus?                                                                                      

A: I purchased a road bike from Craigslist and started riding. Once I became familiar with the bike routes, I would cruise around town, explore places I’d never visited, and realized I really enjoyed exploring the city on my bike. I remember being a little frustrated when I first started using the bus. Trying to catch transfers from one bus to another proved difficult in the beginning, but this has improved over the years with the addition of more routes and times. Once you figure out the bus schedules it becomes much easier to plan your trips.

Q: What are some of the benefits?

A: There are many benefits to taking the bus and cycling. I save $75/month solely in parking costs. A monthly bus pass is $50, which is more than worth it in saving on gas and parking. I have also reduced my carbon footprint and contribute minimally to traffic. Commuting by bicycle also helps with my fitness. I am able to improve my fitness level without having to pay for a gym, and I can ride as long or as short as I want. The health and cost benefits of commuting by bike or bus are exponentially greater than commuting in a car. There are also the regular commuters who I have met on the bus, we call ourselves the “The 52 L Bus Club.” I’ve also made some really good friends through commuting on my bike. Commuting should be a fun, enjoyable experience, not something you dread every day.

Q: What are some of the barriers?

A: The first barrier to commuting by bus or bike is getting started, you need to be prepared. For commuting by bus; a comfy pair of shoes, a waterproof backpack, headphones or a book are great to get started. Commuting by bike requires a few additional items such as; a helmet, lock, repair kit, eye protection, rain wear, layers, and bike lights. It can take time to develop confidence commuting by bike or bus. Getting around town can be nerve racking at first, there are a lot of hills in Kansas City, but they are not impossible to conquer. There are also electric bikes that make the hills much easier to handle. Commuting by bike can come with the stigma that you wear spandex with sponsorship logos plastered all over, but this is not the case at all! Your commute should be comfortable, so what you wear and the route you take should be comfortable as well.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is driving to work every day, but has been thinking about commuting by bike and bus?

A: My best piece of advice is to just give it a try. Make a day out of using alternative transportation. Try taking the bus around the city on a weekend. Rent a bike from BikeWalkKC or even an E-scooter. RideKC also gives a free day pass to those who download the app. Learn the streets that are less congested, ride some of the city trails, learn the bus routes that can get you from home to work. Go out with a friend or take a group of friends, to learn together. Commuting should be fun!

Photo: Darrin Dressler

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