Biking Benefits: Environment, Health & Money

Bicycles

Whether it’s commuting to work or going shopping, the car has become a staple for transportation in the Western World, and even everywhere else in the world. Worldwide, it is estimated that there will be one billion cars on the road by 2020 consuming a total of 870,000,000,000 gallons per year. That means one billion cars will be actively taking part to destroy our environment.

Biking, which has recently been regaining popularity, is a great alternative for cars when it comes to traveling short distance. And while it may seem inconvenient, according to the National Household Transportation Survey, half of American workers live within five miles of their work place. If even a fraction of those commuters would opt for biking then major changes could be made in our environment. Take this into consideration: according to BBC, if all commuters in the UK left their cars at home for one day a week for a year, there would be enough gas to travel to the moon and back 35,000 times.

Simply put, biking is better for the environment than driving a car. Vehicles contribute the most to air pollution and vehicle exhaust contributes around 60 percent of all carbon monoxide emissions (and can contribute up to 95 percent in cities.) Cars also secrete  toxic emissions including hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen. According to a study in Great Britain, air pollution from exhaust fumes kill more than twice as many people as road accidents.

If that weren’t bad enough, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (responsible for climate change which, in turn, result in artic sea ice loss, problems in vegetation, sea level change and animal extinction) in the United States come from vehicles. Cars require gas, and estimates attribute 77 percent of a car’s footprint to the CO2 released from burning gasoline. But if environmental reasons aren’t enough, then consider the health and financial advantages of biking.

In terms of health, biking is a great way to get fit. Not only does it blast a lot of calories, it tones your body all over and helps with joint trouble. What’s more, biking helps your energy level: A study published in the March 2008 issue of the Swiss medical journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that bike riding improved energy levels by 20 percent and decreased fatigue by 65 percent. How does it work? Cycling triggers your brain to release the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is linked to energy levels. And if you think you’ll need to bike constantly to boost your energy, think again! Subjects in the  University of Georgia study who pedaled at a low to moderate pace three times a week fought fatigue best.

The financial benefits of biking instead of driving a car are countless. Right off the bat, you can save oodles in gas money and car maintenance fees. Americans who are opting to bike instead of driving are saving $4.6 billion, according to the calculations of bike-friendly groups. In fact, it has been estimated (by the Sierra Club, the League of American Bicyclists and the National of Council of La Raza) that a car ride costs six times the amount a ride on a bike does.