Leave the car in the driveway and go carbon-free

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — All hail the bicyclists of the greater Philadelphia region.

They’ve got legs of iron and nerves of steel as they compete for a slice of space on our car-choked streets, sailing through clouds of vehicle fumes and motorists’ irritation while leaving nary a speck of carbon in their wake.

There are lots of reasons people grab a two-wheel ride instead of their car keys.

It’s potentially a huge money-saver as well as excellent exercise. It enhances your mood as well as your productivity. But one thing we love most about it is that it’s carbon-free.

Transportation is the largest single source of carbon emissions in the U.S. Relying on foot (or leg) power, you can do your part to bring that number down.

That’s not to say it isn’t challenging to wend your way on two wheels to work or anywhere else in our area.

The Clean Air Council (CAC) recognizes Philadelphia as the most-biked large city in America, but it’s not as bike-friendly as many smaller burgs. Cycling advocates believe Philly’s lack of a cohesive system of dedicated bike lanes is keeping some potential pedal-pushers in their cars.

“One of the biggest problems is that while we have bits and pieces of bike infrastructure going into the city and the region, a lot of it isn’t connected fully,” said Nick Zuwiala-Rogers, transportation project director of the CAC in Philadelphia. “We might add a few blocks of a protected bike lane somewhere, like the two protected bike lanes the city put into Market and JFK Boulevard last summer. They’re fantastic and people have been using them, but I think even more bicycles would be on them if they connected to other protected infrastructure for cyclists.”

Connecting the pieces is a work in progress, but it just got a boost from the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge. Philadelphia is one of five major cities — along with Atlanta, Boston, Denver, and Minneapolis — to win a spot, which will amount to about $2 million to accelerate the implementation of high-quality bike and transit corridors by the end of 2020. It will also include an in-house city adviser at the Office of Sustainability.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) calls it “tackling climate change from the street up.” It will be providing expertise over the course of the challenge.

And while we’re at it, let’s give a shoutout to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. This advocacy organization has been working for almost half a century to make area streets safer for bikers and walkers, by adding more than 200 miles of bike lanes, inspiring the Circuit Trail network, and bringing bike share programs to Philadelphia, among other impressive victories listed on its website.

The latest: securing a ramp on the Ben Franklin Bridge to replace the stairs.

Whether you want to hit some new trails for fun or switch up your ride to work, the coalition is a great place to start for ideas and insights, and it wouldn’t turn down your energy toward its efforts either.

Now that the riding season is underway, grab your helmet, and if you like to cycle in a skirt or kilt, please check out this ingenious solution to avoid inadvertently flashing anyone, called Penny in Yo’ Pants. What a time to be alive.

Go. Do. Ride!