The Drawdown book reports Bike Infrastructure as the #59 most effective strategy for reversing global warming. Since bicycles are the most efficient means of transportation ever invented, riding a bike saves fuel and practically eliminates emissions compared to driving a gas-powered automobile. Consider also that 40% of urban car trips are less than two miles in length, which is well within the range of most adults’ bicycling abilities. Bicycling is also about five times as fast as walking, which makes a compelling case for encouraging bicycle commutes to work and school.

In the US, only one percent of trips are taken by bicycle, compared to 27% in the Netherlands. The reason for the difference? Infrastructure. It is difficult and dangerous to ride a bicycle on a typical American road, so most of us simply don’t do it. In places like Copenhagen, bicycle superhighways are constructed to connect the city to the surrounding suburbs. By providing the infrastructure, the culture changes to favor bicycling (“if you build it, they will come”).

Sidewalks are not adequate bicycle infrastructure in an urban setting with pedestrians

Here are some of the benefits of bicycling:

Avoiding Traffic

By opting to travel on a bike path rather than a highway, you enjoy the privacy and safety of avoiding collisions with motor vehicles around you. That means no bumper-to-bumper congestion, no road rage, and no traffic delays caused by car accidents.

Ashland Central Bike Trail – no cars allowed

Exercise

For an average 180 lb cyclist, riding a bicycle will burn around 650 calories per hour. Imagine combining your daily workout with your daily commute – talk about efficiency! The fresh air boost early in the morning can also give you added energy to start your day.

Building muscles and improving cardiovascular fitness

Cost Savings

The Drawdown book assumes a rise from 5.5% to 7.5% of urban trips by 2050. We know that on average, Americans drive two trips per day, or 730 trips per year. Remember that 40% of those trips are under two miles (as discussed earlier), or 292 trips per year able to be performed by bicycle. At two miles each, that is 584 miles per year able to be avoided by using a bicycle instead of driving. Using an average 32 MPG vehicle and a gas price of $3 per gallon of gas, you could save $54.75 each year by riding your bicycle for short trips. Using the Drawdown recommendation of taking 7.5% of your trips by bike each year, that equates to 55 trips per year, or roughly one trip a week by bike.

Celebrate the savings!

Improved Air Quality

By taking more cars off the road, air quality improves by way of less tailpipe emissions.

Bicycling – a breath of fresh air

 

Actions You Can Take Today:

  • Choose one of your typical weekly trips to take by bike – to work, school, the gym, the grocery store, your friend’s house, your next date night, the library… take your pick!
  • Check out bicycle network maps in your city (Bicycle Network Analysis) or for your next adventure (US Bicycle Route System).
  • Visit your local bicycle shop for tips on safety and visibility when riding, as well as suggestions for bicycling in implement weather.

Related LEED® v4 Credits:

  • LEED BD+C, LTc Bicycle Facilities (1 pt)