Saving the World, One Bike Ride at a Time

Saving the World, One Bike Ride at a Time

Biking to work helps make the world a better place. Even if you only bike to work a few times a week, you’ll be helping to cut back on pollution, reduce traffic, and boost the economy. See how biking to work can make you an everyday superhero.

Bikes are a very green way of getting around. They don’t burn non-renewable fossil fuels and they don’t produce harmful emissions. During its lifetime on the road, each car produces 994 million cubic meters (1.3 billion cubic yards) of polluted air and scatters an additional 18 kg (40 lb) of worn tire particles, brake debris, and worn road surface into the atmosphere. In the U.S., motor vehicles produce more than 30% of the carbon dioxide emissions, more than 80% of carbon monoxide, and about half of the nitrogen oxide emissions each year. And those are just the pollutants created by driving. From the foam and plastic in its seats to the petroleum in its tires, each car creates several tons of waste and 917 million cubic meters (1.2 billion cubic yards) of polluted air through the course of its manufacturing. What’s more, bike commuters tend to be in good physical shape and are less likely to be obese. This means they typically use less energy on everything from transportation to food production.

Cycling can also reduce congestion and the journey times of other road users, particularly in urban areas. A 2012 study by Toronto Public Health found that investing in active transportation and public transport can help to reduce congestion, reduce delays from collisions, reduce the unreliability of travel time, and improve residents’ ability to access facilities and services.

Not only does biking to work save you money (fuel, parking fees, insurance payments), it saves everyone money. The Journal of Physical Activity and Health published a 2011 study on biking investment in Portland, Oregon. It found that “during the next 30 years, Portland’s residents could save as much as US$594 million in health care costs because of an investment into biking culture”.

In 2012, the city of Copenhagen confirmed that bike commuters in its bike-loving city generated major savings for the government (US$0.42 per mile biked) in a wide range of economy-boosting ways: transportation costs, traffic infrastructure, security, branding/tourism, and public health. TNO, a Dutch economic think tank, conducted a study which found that people who commute to work by bike are less likely to call in sick. They asserted that a 1% increase in biking to work could save Denmark’s employers approximately US$34 million in lost productivity from absenteeism. That’s for an economy with a workforce of only 7.1 million people. Imagine what the impact would be in countries like the U.S. with a workforce of more than 154 million people.

Research shows that the more bicycles there are on the road, the safer it becomes for cyclists. “It’s a virtuous cycle,” Dr. Julie Hatfield, an injury expert from UNSW, says. “The likelihood that an individual cyclist will be struck by a motorist falls with increasing rate of bicycling in a community. And the safer cycling is perceived to be, the more people are prepared to cycle.”

Getting Started
For more, read Biking to Work: No More Excuses and our Bike Commuting Tips.