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SITKA - People pulled out their bikes, walking shoes, bus passes, and dinghies, or conducted work over the phone and Internet to reduce their use of fossil fuels in Sitka this summer. Over 1,400 miles of no-gas/shared gas travel were tracked by 46 participants in the "Freedom from Fossil Fuel Fridays," or FFFF program, which ran from July through the end of September this year.
The FFFF project was started as a one-month pilot project in 2008 by members of the Sitka Global Warming Group, Sustainable Sitka and Sitka Bike Friendly Coalition. It was an effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, improve health, and save people money by using less fossil fuel and more human-powered or share-ride options. The FFFF project challenged community members to get out of their cars one day per week and to get to work, school, events, or even just to lunch by walking, riding bikes, carpooling, riding the bus, or telecommuting instead.
"This is the second year that we organized FFFF and we are very happy with the final results," said Michelle Putz with the Sitka Global Warming Group. "We had 46 people participate, many of them on a regular basis. Similar to last year, biking was the most popular way to get around without using gas."
Sponsors report that almost 840 miles of the no-gas total was by bicycle for an average bike ride of 5.5 miles each day. Walkers logged the second highest mileage total with almost 145 miles. The value of electric vehicles as a fossil fuel free option in Sitka was reflected in the 100-plus miles logged by electric cars this summer.
"We were glad to take part in this project and to see the great participation by bicycle riders in Sitka," said Doug Osborne, a representative of the Sitka Bike Friendly Community Coalition. "Forward thinking programs like the FFFF campaign encourage bicycling for transportation which has big benefits for individuals, schools, workplaces and for the community as a whole. Programs like this will help us reach the goal of retaining our nationally recognized designation as a 'Bicycle Friendly Community.'"
Carpooling and bus use had fewer participants, but substantially reduced the miles driven. The average carpool distance was 8.5 miles. Many people used two or more modes of no-gas or shared-gas travel. Over 200 miles were logged in 40 total trips by people walking and then biking or carpooling, walking to and riding the bus, or some other travel combination. Telecommuting was another no-gas option used this year.
"The most interesting travel method this year was a dinghy ride with several people sharing a no-gas ride," said Putz. "There are lots of options for using less gas while on the waters of Sitka Sound. While Alice (Machesney) did not sign up for FFFF, she was a great model of fossil fuel-free travel for Sitkans and could have been our cover girl!"
This year's efforts resulted in about 1,380 pounds of carbon dioxide reduced (at 20 miles per gallon fuel efficiency). That's roughly 1 pound of CO2 reduced for every 1 mile of no-gas or shared-gas travel. Add to that the cost savings of gas, the health benefits of exercise and shared time with friends, co-workers, community members and the FFFF program benefited not only those involved, but it also benefited the environment.