A Comprehensive Comparison of Bike and Car Commuting

For my energy project, I commuted (20 miles RT) by bike from my house to UAS and the Alaska Club 4 days a week for six weeks during summer classes. I then compared my data to that if I had driven the same distance 5 days a week for six weeks.* I did 4 days a week biking to give myself one day leeway.

1. Essential Question

How can I make small changes in my every day life to decrease my consumption of energy and help the environment?

 2. Research Question(s)

By commuting via bike 4 days out of 5 to UAS instead of driving (during summer classes) for 6 weeks:

  • Do I save time and money, and if so, how much?
  • How much gas do I conserve and what does that equate to?
  • How many calories do I burn and how does that compare with my regular workout at the gym?

3. Preconception


  1. I will save time by combining my commute and workout times.
  2. I will save money by not paying for gas and gym membership dues.
  3. I will help protect the environment by conserving gas.
  4. I will burn more calories than I would during my regular workout at the gym.

4. Research

There is a lot of research about how commuting by foot or bike (green) decreases gas consumption and therefore helps protect the environment. Because many of my unknown questions were about health specific benefits, my research focused on seeing if there was a correlation between green commutes and personal health.

The links below show research/studies that focus on the relationship between commuting (green or otherwise) and their health impacts, along with some research regarding benefits of biking (health, financial, environmental, etc.)

 5. Determine data needed

  • Car cost
  • Bike costs
  • Time by car to school and the gym
  • Total time driving
  • Time at gym
  • Total time driving and at gym
  • Total time by bike
  • Cost of gas to school and gym
  • Cost of gym for 6 weeks at JRC

6. Methodology for Data Collection

I will collect data by doing simple calculations and averages for the questions I’ve determined need answering in section 5. I will average out the information based on a couple days of tracking. I will then calculate the averages and totals based on my numbers of 4 days out of 5 for the 6-week duration of my summer classes. I will do it based on 4 days out of 5 to give leeway for driving my car if I need to carpool, do something after school, have a presentation, need to bring something to school, or if I have time constraints that do not allow me to commute via bike.

7. Make a spreadsheet with Data Collected

This data is collected and presented in the key note presentation.

8. Play the “Power of Ten”

If ten people commuted by bike instead of car for an average commute of 15 miles round trip four days a week, consumption of gas would decrease by:

          • 7 gallons per day
          • 28 gallons per week
          • 112 gallons per month
          • 1,344 gallons per year

9. Make a Presentation

10.  Reflect on Presentation

Looking back on my presentation, here are my major self critiques:

  1. Without a real audience, I feel like I am insanely MONTONE and speaking without much enthusiasm. It’s strange to hear, since most of the time people tell me I am overly animated. I think with adrenaline from a real audience that this would not be problematic. However, if I continue to do presentations on my computer with no audience, I need to work on this.
  2. Despite years of practice to decrease my “UMMMS” and “likes,” I still say “ummmm” a lot during this presentation. I can continue to work on this. Because I found a huge analytical error in my project and had to redo much of my math, and therefore presentation- I did get to have a practice presentation. I noticed that I said “umm,” during transition most. The next time I recorded my presentation, I consciously worked to have strong page changes without the usage of “ummm,” during moments of awkward silence (which seemed to help and made a much stronger and more credible presentation of research).
  3. Despite having the research in front of me on paper and in graphs throughout my presentation, I felt like I could have been CLEARER when presenting my data and finding. I need to work to simplify my information and not over share too many unneeded details.

11. Limitations of the Study and Need for Future Study

Because the numbers were averaged for car costs, time, and calories burned, there could have been variation from day to day.

There were also other questions and data along the way that I thought would be interesting to collect that I did not think of in my initial phases of research questions or preconceptions. I ended up calling these bonus benefits. These are included in my revisit to my preconceptions and my conclusions and results of my overall project.  I would include these research questions and data collection in future studies:

  1. Did I increase my intake of vitamin D? (If so, by how much and what are the benefits?)
  2. What other health benefits did I see? (Journal eating, workout, and feelings during six-week period of commuting by bike and a six-week period of commuting by car and then compare).
  3. How does commuting by bike or car influence by quality of life? (Which is better for my quality of life, commuting by bike or car? Based on the results from the questions and research from #2, measure and compare quality of life.)

12. Revisiting Preconceptions

I found my preconceptions were accurate and that I didn’t have any misconceptions.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find some bonus benefits that I hadn’t thought of during the initial stages of my project during my preconceptions and therefore didn’t include in my research question or data collection.  These include:

  • An increased amount of time outside and an increased amount of vitamin D.
  • More energy and healthier choices (healthier eating, increased biking and running in off-time)
  • An increased quality of life

13. Conclusion of Results/Project

I have had a rather green commute at my last two jobs. When I worked in Seattle, I commuted three hours a day- taking two one hour ferry rides and walking about three miles to and from work. When I worked in South Korea, I walked 1.5 hours per day to and from work. I have always preferred to walk or bike to work rather than driving or taking a bus. While I have spent many years and lot of time commuting by foot, I have never actually spent the time to compile the numbers to figure out the statistics of my commute or compare them with driving statistics until now.

Looking back at my preconceptions, most of them were pretty accurate. I knew that I was going to save time and money, conserve gas and burn more calories, I just wasn’t sure as to what extent. Nor did I think about what other benefits there might be that I wasn’t collecting data to measure.

Amazingly in six weeks:

  • I saved about three hundred dollars by eliminating my gym membership and commuting via bike rather than driving my car to school and The Alaska Club.
  • I also conserved about fourteen gallons of gas, 276 pounds of CO2.
  • I burned 5,280 more calories than I would have at the gym, which contributed to my loss of ~ eight pounds.
  • I saved 21 hours, almost an entire day.
  • I biked rain or shine and spent an extra 40 hours outside.
  • I eliminated 22.4 hours of car time.

Bonus benefits (I did not measure, but noticed the advantages):

  • By increasing my time outside, I increased my intake of vitamin D.
  • I felt more energized, ate healthier, and rather than drinking coffee to get a pick
  • me-up, I walked or ran around during my breaks at school.
  • I biked during lunch breaks and on weekends, when I typically would not.
  • I ran to school a couple times, which I wouldn’t have been as likely to do if I
  • hadn’t been biking the same route/mileage everyday.
  • I was genuinely happy to be outside (rain or shine) seeing the ocean and
  • mountains and felt like this commute truly did increase my quality of life.

Collecting, writing down, and charting the data was very useful. While I knew commuting by bike was a good thing, I had no idea to what extreme, nor did I think about the magnitude of the advantages. Obviously, I guessed it would be better for the environment, but I never really thought of how many other personal gains I would have out of it, nor how broad they would end up. Playing “what if” was eye opening. It’s amazing what the impact can be by just convincing ten other people to commute via bike instead of driving. It really made me realize that the choices and habits I make in my everyday life really does matter and that they do impact the environment in a positive way, and more drastically that I imagined. I think that’s good to remind ourselves because we are always bombarded with negative messages about the environment. It is so easy to get discouraged and think that simple things like recycling or commuting by foot don’t make a difference, when in fact they do.

14. Assessment of Energy Project

How would you set up this project? I liked the set up of this project. While I might be inclined to have a theme or give students direction about what kind of project they should do, I really appreciated the freedom of being able to pick anything energy related in my life. It made the research and results relevant to my life and interests. The results contribute to my background knowledge, which I am most likely share with others while trying to encourage them to make positive daily changes for the environment and their personal wellbeing.

Would you use backwards design (Wiggins & McTighe), or another approach? I would use backwards design. I like backwards design because it is global and focuses on big picture learning. Using essential questions and inquiry based-learning, backwards design helps students understand how they will be assessed and what will be expected of them from the beginning of the unit. Because backwards design uses rubrics frequently, students know what is expected of them- but also have the freedom to choose how they will progress with their project (allowing differentiated learning).

What kind of evaluation approach would you use? I would assess using a well thought out and designed rubric, trying to connect with other content and transferable ideas. Along with my own (teacher) assessments and feedback, I would have students do personal and peer assessments based on the rubric as well. I would also include self-reflections of both the research/presentation process, along with the results that they discovered. An additional piece or assessment (other than their presentation) could be a product (like a brochure, website, video, ad, etc.) that educates and promotes their findings to encourage others to make small environmentally friendly changes in their everyday lives as well (pay it forward/trickle effect).



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