Impact of the 1-mile Solution

How much impact can the 1-mile Solution really have? Check out the transportation statistics cited by Professor Chandra Bhat in his recent survey of for the Center for Transportation Research at The University of Texas at Austin:

Bhat said the transportation sector accounts for about one-third of all human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. Within that sector, travel by personal vehicles accounts for nearly two-thirds of those emissions. And only 0.9 percent of all trips in the United States are made by bicycle, and the number drops to 0.4 percent for commute trips — despite the fact that a significant amount of trips are deemed short-distance and can be made using a bike. A 2001 National Household Travel Survey revealed that 41 percent of all trips in 2001 were shorter than two miles and 28 percent were shorter than one mile.

So you start out small. You commit to one trip per week by foot or on a bicycle within a 1-mile radius of home. One mile is not far. At a modest pace it’s a 20-minute walk (great exercise!) or a 6-minute bicycle ride.

The idea, of course, is that we’ll all see how easy one mile is and then begin replacing two trips per week. Then three. And soon enough, we’re routinely walking and riding within the circle.

(Granted, living conditions and physical ability will make this idea difficult to impossible for some Americans. I’m concerned right now for those who can but don’t.)

The benefits are huge. And not just for the environment. The benefits are huge for our pocketbooks and our well-being.

As most Carbon Trace readers know by now, I’m working on a new utility cycling booklet for Springfield. How mine will be different from the rest: I’ll be focusing (although not exclusively) on the 1-mile Solution rather than heroic commuting of the kind only a few can actually accomplish (at this time). No scary talk of special clothing and strenuous ablutions. Just normal people wearing normal clothes using their normal bicycles (or their normal shoes) to travel within a mile of their homes. This is do-able.

I’ll soon compile and expand much of what I’ve written so far about the 1-mile Soultion into a stand-alone page on Carbon Trace. For now, check out:

The 1-mile solution

The 1-mile Solution in Action

Mapping the 1-mile Solution

UPDATE: Here’s another article on the benefits of active transportation: Leaner nations, bike, walk, use mass transit. (Link via Spinning My Wheels)

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Comments 6

  1. Andy in Germany wrote:

    A great was to get people cycling. I guess we do this anyway as we don’t have a car, but it’s a good tool for when we’re trying to get other people on board.
    I just have to remember it’s 1,5km…

    Posted 17 Dec 2008 at 1:22 am
  2. Kartik Sribarra wrote:

    Great job pushing your 1-Mile Solution. This is yet another important call for more walking and biking. It’s truly a no-lose proposition with many crucial benefits.

    If I may offer a few resources from my organization, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy… we’re running a pledge similar to the 1MS, the “Burn Calories, Not Carbon!” (TM) pledge, at It’s been pretty popular so far, and we use it to push for bike- and pedestrian-friendly policies on the federal level and wherever else possible.

    Also, our recently released report, “Active Transportation for America” ( makes powerful economic arguments for increased federal support of walking and biking. I’d encourage everyone to check it out.

    Thanks for your work – getting more folks walking and biking is truly of enormous national importance. Well done.

    Posted 18 Dec 2008 at 9:42 am
  3. Andy Cline wrote:

    Kartik… I’ve written about your report on Carbon Trace. I’ll highlight that link in my next mention of the 1-mile Solution, which will be soon 🙂 I’ll also add it to the sidebar. I’d appreciate any help you can give getting your readers to vote for the 1-MS. Thanks!

    Posted 18 Dec 2008 at 12:48 pm
  4. s carter wrote:

    i have been actively living the “1.6km solution” for the last few months (well, before the temperatures plunged below -20!) and am hoping that this idea will take hold someday.

    keep up the good work!

    Posted 31 Dec 2008 at 10:21 am
  5. Demetrius wrote:

    I actually did this mapping when I was deciding on where to live – I plotted my travels for a month in my city and then I found the geographic center of my life.

    By finding the center of your travels and then moving there – you can get rid of the second car and use your bike to a much better degree.

    Just for fun – try this yourself using a paper map and see where you should be living – use your whole family to plot out your travels. It is fun to do and for a biker invaluable.

    As another note: I have evangelized about using my bike to everyone I know and NEVER has ANYONE ELSE I KNOW used a bike to get to work. There is just NOTHING that will get 98 percent of people to use a bike in North America… There is always an excuse NOT to use a bike and I am very disheartened about it – even when gas was 4.50 a gallon…

    Posted 01 Jan 2009 at 9:28 am
  6. Andy Cline wrote:

    Dem… I did the same thing when I moved to Springfield. And re: 98 percent of people; it will take a lot of hard work to budge those numbers even a little bit. We’ll see.

    Posted 01 Jan 2009 at 10:31 am