Sandia LabNews

Bike to Work Week re-imagined

Short bike trips to ‘somewhere’ encouraged for annual cycling celebration

cyclists wearing face masks ride bikes on-site
BURNING CALORIES, SAVING ENERGY — Patrick Burton, left, and John Sandlin cycle to work on-site at Sandia’s Albuquerque campus.

See below: Sandia bicycle commuters share their experiences

Bike to Work Week is part of National Bike Month, an annual observance that celebrates biking as both transportation and recreation. Usually held in May, this year’s events had to be postponed due to the pandemic. The 2020 Bike to Work week will be celebrated Sept. 21-27, with Bike to Work Day observed on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Since many Labs employees are still encouraged to work from home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Sandia Bicycle Commuter Group is adapting the annual event, encouraging participants to “bike to get somewhere.”

Biking for transportation is a great way to add some more movement to your day (and earn Virgin Pulse Points). A short trip by bike to replace an errand you’d normally make by car has additional benefits. The direct energy and emissions savings are obvious, but there’s a second emissions benefit that is just as, if not more, important.

Three-way catalytic converters are impressive, emissions-scrubbing powerhouses, but they only work at elevated temperatures. In order to prolong the life of the catalyst, the converter is located far from the engine block, and takes about five minutes to warm up. During this warm-up period, the exhaust is substantially higher in carbon monoxide, unburned fuel and nitrogen oxides. In fact, most of a car’s emissions occur during the first five minutes of each trip. A short trip made by car doesn’t allow enough time for the catalyst to warm up before arrival.

As an engineering lab, we always endeavor to use the best tool for the job. Offsetting short errands (around three miles or five minutes) with a bike ride would avoid most vehicle emissions without requiring so much exertion that it becomes a sweaty workout.

In a neighborhood setting with slower speed limits, the time needed for a bike trip is only marginally greater than the time to drive. Longer trips or hauling more cargo are where the utility of a car starts to overcome the initial energy and emission costs. Shorter errands are the sweet spot for getting more exercise and reducing your carbon footprint.

Unfortunately, there can be several obstacles to using a bike as transportation, including safe paths, accessible routes and other factors. The Sandia Bicycle Commuter Group is happy to help in any capacity possible.

During this year’s Bike to Work (or anywhere else) Week, look around your neighborhood and see where you can go on a bike. If biking to work isn’t feasible for you this year, check out other biking destinations in Albuquerque at or look for a biking organization in your community. 

Sandia bicycle commuters share their experiences

What do you enjoy most about biking to work?

“It’s fun. Taking the scenic route (long way or trails) home also makes commuting to work the fun part of my day. Not having to plan my commute schedule around when I think the gates will be most busy makes biking more convenient than driving for me.”     — Christina Ting

“Biking to work is a great way to commute, and I get my exercise done for the day. Like most people, I have bad knees and biking is one of the few activities that satisfies my weekly cardio and doesn’t cause any pain. At first, I was intimidated by the distance, but after I established my route, I realized my commute time is almost the same as driving. My favorite part is zipping past the long line of cars sitting in gate traffic!”     — Michelle Chatter

“For me, being on the bike has a sense of freedom. Seems to remove you from the hustle and bustle of the day. I use the commute to forget about the stresses of work and recalibrate for home life. It definitely helps to separate the two, which is of great importance to family time.”     — Christopher Eckstein

How does biking to work improve the rest of your day?

“I am generally more focused after riding in. I don’t feel as groggy in the morning (post riding). And on the way home, it is nice to unwind and differentiate between work and home.”     — Andrew Knight

“I really love cycling. Starting the day off with a ride is just plain fun and puts me in a good frame of mind (assuming no close encounters with cars on the way).”     — Brian Podolny

“Biking to work is a great way to get yourself awake and your brain working to start the day. As opposed to driving experience, while you’re biking to work, all of your senses are stimulated: you can smell the freshly plowed field, you can hear the honking geese, you can see the squirrels scurrying to get out of your way, and you can feel the wind in your face. What’s more, I find that if I take the trail routes, I have given and received 10 ‘good mornings’ with fellow bike riders and walkers before pulling into the gate, usually with a smile on my face.”     — Peter Marleau

Which gates have you used, and are there any helpful hints you can share?

“Bicycle gate, Eubank, Truman, Wyoming. Albuquerque actually has a lot of options in terms of bike paths, routes, and trails (400+ miles). There is usually a good route to any one of those gates; check the ABQ bike map or feel free to contact me for route suggestions!”     — Christina Ting

“I’ve biked through the Eubank gate, before and during the construction, and I am eager to get familiar with the new road. I am a little nervous, so when I ride through the new gate, I’ll choose a day and time when there isn’t much traffic (an early Friday morning for example). Once I get more familiar and comfortable it’ll be second nature!”     — Michelle Chatter

“In Sandia California, there aren’t many gate choices: the East Avenue gate is just about it. When I first started biking, I took the pedestrian gate there, but quickly learned that navigating these with a bike can be difficult and frustrating. Bikes are vehicles too, so just merge into the traffic lanes and enter there. I wait my turn along with the cars; though cutting ahead is possible, it’s still cutting! Another piece of advice when you’re commuting by bike is DON’T FORGET YOUR BADGE. The Sandia California badging office is on the other side of the site, so you have a four-mile ride from the East Avenue gate to get there.”     — Peter Marleau