By some strange coincidence, it always rains on the rare days I take public transit.


I’m sure I made a sorry sight yesterday as I schlepped, Sherpa-like, to the bus stop near my house.


Perpetually scatterbrained in the morning and without the benefit of a car trunk catchall, I juggled my backpack, wallet, iPod and keys, all while trying to keep my umbrella from blowing inside out. I was trying to eat my breakfast, which was difficult since I held bus tickets in my teeth.
Still, it was all for a good cause.


In a bid to do my part to save the planet, yesterday I joined tens of thousands of people across Canada in the annual Commuter Challenge, which runs during Environment Week (June 1-7) and encourages participants to use Earth-friendly modes of transport.


“I thought it was a really good way to encourage people to use alternative transportation,” said Mike Buckthought, who founded the challenge in Gatineau in 1991. “I think people can make a difference that way.”

I chose the bus, but carpooling, cycling, walking, in-line skating — anything that keeps your car at home — are all challenge friendly.

Although it felt great to try, meeting the Commuter Challenge didn’t come easily.

Having recently relocated to a new neighbourhood, I was paranoid about missing my bus — and, consequently, my 9 a.m. work assignment — so I left the house more than an hour early. (Of course, the bus arrived on time and I got to my meeting way too early — with nothing to do).

On the plus side, I quickly discovered that riding the bus makes for a “chill” morning commute. It’s easier to relax if you’re not the one behind the wheel.

So I sat back and enjoyed the ride while the No. 87 took a scenic (read: Roundabout) way to work. In recent years, people have really embraced “green” transportation, said Buckthought, who bikes and buses to work.

“I think it’s really important to encourage sustainable transportation. It’s a really good way to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide,” he said.

And in addition to the obvious fitness benefits, using sustainable transportation such as bicycles reduces smog for everyone else, Buckthought said.

Buckthought guesses the challenge will have a reach that far outlasts the week.

“I think when people see others bicycling to work or using public transit, they’re encouraged to follow their example,” he said.