Dal rises to the Commuter Challenge

Canada-wide sustainable transportation competition

- October 20, 2011

Roland Hudson, architecture professor, who was the Dalhousie winner of this summer's workplace Commuter Challenge. (Danny Abriel photo)

Rather than getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of traffic, cyclist Roland Hudson—assistant professor in the School of Architecture and the winner of Dalhousie’s first workplace Commuter Challenge—prefers to zip around.

The countrywide, workplace Commuter Challenge 2011 was launched during Canada’s Environment Week this summer - June 5-11. Across the country, 1,203 workplaces registered for the Commuter Challenge, including Dalhousie.

During the week, 27,767 Canadians participated in the challenge by using various modes of sustainable transportation, tracking their travel and entering the data into their account on the Commuter Challenge website. At the end of the week the Dalhousie Office of Sustainability tallied the kilometers traveled, CO2 emissions avoided and calories burned among the Dalhousie participants.

Dalhousie boasted 137 participants in the challenge – the most of any registered workplace in Nova Scotia. The Dalhousie Office of Sustainability awarded Dr. Hudson with the grand-prize of a $50 gift certificate to Mountain Equipment Co-op. Four runners-up also received prizes: Karen O’Malley (biomedical engineering masters student), Claire Campbell (history professor), Helmuth Thomas (oceanography professor) and Carl Helmick (commuter programmer for the Department of Psychiatry).

Making the sustainable trek


For Dr. Hudson, cycling just makes sense. “If I drove my car it would take longer and I would arrive feeling like I just wasted part of my day,” he says. “The feeling of passing stationary traffic, each car with a single person, is incredible and the obvious time-saving adds to the pleasure of riding.”

Runners-up Dr. Thomas and Mr. Helmick both commute from Dartmouth by bike. They personally find that the time commitment of cycling is comparable to driving, at least during peak hours. And even those who prefer slower modes of active transportation can enjoy their journey: Dr. Campbell walks back and forth to Dalhousie from the North End of Halifax. Aside from days when it’s pouring rain, she insists, “there’s no better commute. It takes time, but it’s a good kind of time.”

Dr. Hudson finds that his 50-minute bike ride provides a perfect transition between home and work, or work and home. “I arrive after my journey usually feeling refreshed and ready to work, or ready to eat and relax at home,” he says.

Ms. O’Malley, a biomedical engineering master’s student, is a cyclist who takes the bus during rainy or cold weather. She uses her bike whenever she can, “especially when it is warm”, she says. “It is another way for me to spend time outside and burn a few calories to make up for the ice cream.”

Combined, Dalhousie participants burned a total of 161,768 calories during the Commuter Challenge week by engaging in active transportation. They saved a combined 745 litres of fuel by traveling without their car, or by carpooling in some cases. They travelled 11,365 kilometres while avoiding 1,829 kilograms of CO2 emissions.

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Register now, for the new 2011 Campus Commuter Challenge for students!


The creators of the National Commuter Challenge have launched a new transportation challenge that is directed at students. The 2011 Campus Commuter Challenge will run from Monday, Oct. 24 to Friday, Oct. 28. Each student who participates adds to Dalhousie’s percent of participation. The Canadian university with the highest percent of participation in their size category wins.

It is very easy to register. You can sign up online at the challenge's website. Remember to select ‘Dalhousie University’ as your school. During the week you will need to sign in each day to track the distances you travel and your mode of transportation. At the end of the week each participant will receive the impact data associated with the types of transportation methods they used.

The Dalhousie Office of Sustainability will award prizes to the Dalhousie participants most committed to using sustainable modes of transportation during the week.


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