To Challenge “To Challenge or not to Challenge?”

In order to show that Verdis is not a culturally monolithic company—or simply to prove that Craig is a cool* boss—I wanted to express my own, slightly different viewpoint on the subject of commuting-related challenges.

Like Craig, I also regularly commute to work by bicycle only, bicycling to the bus, carpooling, and occasionally driving alone. I also have been actively participating in both the Activate Omaha Bicycle Commuter Challenge and the Metro [bus and carpooling] Commuter Challenge. Even though both challenges provide easy, web-based systems to track your commutes, I forget to enter data some days and have to go back. However, I continue to participate because I have no problem being possibly rewarded for something I am doing anyway. I should also add that I like to keep track of data so I can analyze things later; the challenge tools allow me to do that in a more social way.

In fact, along the lines of Craig’s suggestion, I do track the miles driven and gasoline consumed in the car my wife and I share. I’ve been tracking these things since 2003. Even though I use a pen and notebook, it is actually easier than ever to do with apps available for nearly every model of smart phone.

Granted, I may not be the intended audience or target market for these challenges, but since I regularly use multiple modes anyway, I welcome the extra encouragement. Perhaps the real question is whether the main purpose is to reward current users or attract new users (or both)? If the former, the challenges are fulfilling their purpose (unless you are like Craig and feel like you are being punished). If the latter, the challenges may be too onerous. Someone who chooses to use drive alone each day (for whatever reason) may not be willing to tackle the double “challenge” of both switching their commuting habit and, oh my gosh, keep track of their use.

I personally have no mixed feelings about participating in the challenges, and at least in the case of the bicycle commuting challenge, believe I am helping meet a third purpose that is critical to Omaha’s community development: I am helping create a body of data that demonstrate support for what are currently alternative modes of transportation. For me that is the most important outcome and supersedes any qualms I could have about logging my trips, or concerns about whether the challenges are actually reducing single-occupancy vehicle use. So I am happy to participate. Like the old Tums commercials said about the calcium content of the chalky antacid, “It’s something my body needs anyway,” these challenges are good for the community even if they aren’t getting people out of cars. On the other hand, sometimes my coworkers say I am nuts.


*I have to qualify “cool” because, as a side note, Craig and I are diametrically opposed on the issue of whether the serial, or Oxford, comma is appropriate to use. I dig it, he say “not cool.” But I am not shocked that more people support it than not as shown by the results of our Facebook and in-house polls:


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