Can riding a bike save the world?

Julie Urlaub, Founder and Managing Partner of Taiga Company, presents some statistics about the benefits of cycling in this guest blog...

Until the recent spike in gas prices, much of the discussion about reducing carbon emissions have centred on increasing the efficiency of the vehicles we drive. What about trading in the car for a bike?

Consider this: According to The Green Commuter, motor vehicle emissions represent 31% of total carbon dioxide, 81% of carbon monoxide, and 49% of nitrogen oxides released in the U.S. The Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey shows that 25% of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40% of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50% of the working population commutes five miles or less to work. Yet more than 82% of trips five miles or less are made by personal motor vehicle. Around 60% of the pollution created by automobile emissions happens in the first few minutes of operation, before pollution control devices can work effectively. Since these "cold starts" create high levels of emissions, shorter car trips are more polluting on a per-mile basis than longer trips.

The solution? Go car free.

The University of Wisconsin researchers found that cycling could answer many of their environmental and health problems. According to the report published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives, if Mid-westerners replaced half of their short trips with bicycle trips during the warmest six months of the year, they would save about $3.8 billion per year from avoided mortality and reduced health care costs for conditions like obesity and heart disease. The report calculated that these measures would save an estimated $7 billion, including 1,100 lives each year from improved air quality and increased physical fitness. The lengths of trips in the study were 2.5 miles one way and less than 25 minutes by bike.

As it is, bike commuting not only helps the environment and improves wellbeing, but it also saves money. As alternative transportation, cycling helps the environment by keeping CO2 out of the air and bikes require far less materials, energy and waste in their production than even the greenest car.

A few bike parking vs. car parking statistics:

  • Number of bikes that can be parked in one car parking space in a paved lot: 6-20
  • Number of racks for bicycle parking in Seattle: 1,900
  • Estimated cost of constructing one parking space in a paved lot: $2,200
  • Estimated cost of constructing one parking space in a garage: $12,500

Why not build a better community by bike commuting? Connect with people and places, enjoy the freedom only a bike brings, and create a bicycling legacy for your family. Bicycling significantly reduces transportation emissions while also reducing traffic congestion and the need for petroleum.

Play with the idea - pedal down a new path!

Related Articles:

EcoLocal helps everyone get into cycling

Cycling makes its mark as Mark gets slim

The Virgin Trains bike

Image by Horia Varlan

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