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4 Ways Cycling Can Help Save The World

February 4, 2020

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4 Ways Cycling Can Help Save The World

“Car and truck strikes cause more wildlife deaths per year, globally, than poaching, deforestation, and pollution.”

TheDodo.com

Have you ever sat in traffic, continually pressing the brakes, thinking about all of the productive things you could do with your time instead?

If so, you’re not alone. Factoring in the hours spent in traffic, along with the growing rates of pollution that contribute to global warming, many wonder if a car is still a feasible, convenient, and cost-effective mode of transportation.

This is perhaps why The Zebra reports, “from 2012 to 2019, the number of registered vehicles in the U.S. decreased by more than 27.3 million.”

Enter the simple bicycle. Of course, this invention—one of humankind’s most famous—isn’t a realistic option if you commute 50 miles each way to and from work. But more often than not, biking is a sensible method for most of us to run quick errands, visit nearby friends, and get some fresh air, all while reducing our carbon footprint and environmental impact.

Are there other ways that cycling could be beneficial to our planet and to the 7 billion people that call it home? In this article, we’ll explore four different ways that the humble bicycle can help protect the earth for future generations to enjoy.

1. Fossil Fuel Emissions

According to the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads (Australia), “Bicycle riding uses minimal fossil fuels and is a pollution-free mode of transport.” As such, it could help reduce the 13 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions that occur every year.

Unfortunately, that number only accounts for Australia and its six major cities. Cumulatively, our global population emits more than 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide.

Comparatively, the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) tells us, “Riding your bike accounts for about 21 g of CO2 emissions per kilometer – more than ten times less than a car!”

Automobile exhaust is a major contributor to greenhouse gases and global warming — something that bikes can help offset.

Keep in mind that this number only accounts for one person, so if a whole community commuted on their bikes, you could only imagine the possibilities for meaningful reductions in fossil fuel emissions.

2. Physical Exercise

Cycling not only contributes to global health but individual health as well—both physical and mental.

To outline this fact, a 2018 study conducted by Danish researchers concluded that no matter what type of cyclist you are, whether a regular rider or just one from time-to-time, bicycling can decrease your chance of premature death by 23 percent. Crazy, right?

Furthermore, a report provided by Cycling England emphasizes that the physical activity undertaken while cycling can have a wide array of mental health benefits, including “improved subjective well-being, mood, and emotions,” “fewer symptoms of anxiety or emotional distress,” and “improved sleep patterns.”

They also note that physical activity can “improve self-esteem and can result in positive changes in certain aspects of physical self-perception, such as body image or self-worth.”

Along these same lines, the physical activity from regular cycling can decrease the likelihood of developing clinical depression. In some instances, biking was “equally effective as traditional treatments such as psychotherapy,” and can even help patients reduce their reliance on medication.

The physical activity from cycling can help us feel great mentally and physically, regardless of age.

Finally, according to the report, cycling can deliver all of these benefits, regardless of age group and socio-economic status!

In addition to the environment and our health, what other benefits does cycling provide that could help save the world?

3. Job Creation

A 2011 study conducted by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, found that a bicycle creates up to twice as many jobs as an automobile. How is this the case?

Biking and pedestrian projects require more engineers than construction workers, they explain. This means projects have bigger budgets. With higher budgets and higher engineering costs, they, therefore, have a greater employment rate.

Dollar-for-dollar, cycling infrastructure projects create more employment opportunities than those for automobiles.

So, the next time that there is a bill to vote for more trails or other pedestrian and biking infrastructure projects in your city think about the economic and employment advantages it could bring.

4. Wildlife

Between bighorn sheep, black bears, wild horses, moose, deer, and many other animals, we have magnificent wildlife here in Colorado.

Unfortunately, these animals have begun to suffer as construction has skyrocketed over the last several years, and along with it has come increased automobile traffic (76 percent of which involves single-passenger vehicles).

Outside of habitat destruction and the wastefulness of driving automobiles, noise from cars can frighten and confuse animals, especially elk, when they migrate, leading to drastically increased death rates. In fact, car and truck strikes cause more wildlife deaths per year, globally, than poaching, deforestation, and pollution.

Cycling, however, is almost entirely a noise-free mode of transportation. It’s also low-speed, so your chances of striking wildlife are somewhere near zero. And what’s more, a bike takes up much less space on the roadways that cars.

Latvian cyclists creatively portray how much space cars occupy on our roads, compared to bikes. Credit: CityMetric.com
Another example of how much space cars take up, compared to the same number of people riding a bus or bicycles. Credit: Cycling Promotion Fund

The Bottom Line About How Bicycles Can Save the World

From decreasing carbon dioxide (and other pollutants) emissions to boosting mental and physical health, cycling can work as an ideal transportation alternative to automobiles.

The reality, though, is that just one person on a bike won’t help our global community accomplish all of these benefits. Instead, the masses must rise up and realize there’s a better way to get where we need to go—not just for ourselves but for future generations as well.

So, the next time you meet a friend for lunch or run a simple errand, take a second look at your bike instead of your car.

Madaline Muniz is a writer, proofreader, and avid cyclist from Parker, Colorado.
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