Climate change is rapidly altering the face of the Earth, with public transport accounting for almost a quarter of total CO2 emissions – even more than agriculture and electricity production. This puts transport at the top of the list of priorities if we want to counter some harmful practices contributing to climate change. With this in mind, we discuss here what you should know about the climate impact of biking vs. driving.
Some estimates from studies conducted in the Netherlands and Denmark show that carbon emissions associated with driving a car amount to around 300g, whereas driving a bike releases 16g of CO2 per km. So, this comparison shows that bikes are significantly more eco-friendly than automobiles. What’s more, typical cyclists’ food intake makes their carbon footprint even lower than that of an average pedestrian.
One of the easiest and most cost-effective strategies you could implement in your day-to-day life is switching to biking instead of driving to work every day. European countries have been adapting their cities’ infrastructure to stimulate their citizens to turn to bikes whenever they can. Furthermore, most office workers lead sedentary lifestyles since they spend a lot of time sitting – not only at work but also during their daily commute. We will look closely at these and other important factors to address in the biking vs. driving debate.
Bikes are the ultimate weapon against climate change. For starters, they do not puff out exhaust fumes everywhere they go! This emblem of green living could not only spare the environment but also spare you from spending boatloads of money on gas, routine checkups, car registration, various fees, spare parts, etc. It is no wonder people say it is a luxury to own a car. And how should we treat luxury items? Use them as little as possible.
However, no matter whether it is a cheap or an expensive bike you buy, that is basically it. You inflate the tires from time to time, purchase rain gear if you need it, and you’re all set. The chances that your bicycle will outlive years of commuting are enormous compared to the average life expectancy of a car.
The number of materials, manpower, and energy that goes into the production of a single vehicle cannot compare to producing a single bicycle. The bicycle wins the sustainability race hands down, and by opting to buy a bike instead of a car, you are reducing your expenses and your carbon footprint at the same time.
The only way a bicycle harms the environment is before you buy it – during production. However, once the bike is operational, so to speak, your carbon emissions are reduced to nil.
Not to mention the amount of taxpayer money that goes into the yearly upkeep of motorways. Motorways are subject to vehicles’ weight, necessitating frequent construction work, patching, and building of new highways. In comparison, bike lanes are forever. It is no wonder that environmentally-conscious governments in Europe prioritize adapting their infrastructure to stimulate and accommodate the growing biking communities. Some people even see this as a reason to leave the States and relocate to Europe for good.
It is usually extremely easy to fix and sell a bike, so this also contributes to making our environment cleaner. Rather than ending up in the massive junkyards after a few years, a bike is functional for decades before it is turned into scrap metal.
Of course, all this talk will not cut it for people who have no other choice but to depend on their car or public transport. On the other hand, how many times did it happen that you took your car out for a ride when it was unnecessary? When you have a car parked in your driveway, it is tempting to use it, even if you are just throwing out the trash. As innocuous as it may seem from an individual’s perspective, this mindset is harmful on a larger scale.
Misusing your car like this has to become frowned upon in today’s society. So, if you are in your ‘car honeymoon phase’ when you cannot fight the urge to drive it, be sure to think of the broader and long-term consequences this carries for life as you know it. In the near future, there perhaps won’t be an Earth where you could drive a car. The US Institute of Transportation and Development notes that the switch from urban transportation to cycling could reduce carbon emissions up to 11% globally.
This is where your trusty bicycle should come in. Therefore, you may want to consider restricting your carbon emissions by delineating in which situations you absolutely have to use your car. This will also save a lot of money, which would otherwise go toward supplying fuel and other necessary car-related expenses.
With all of the factors mentioned above, one of the strongest arguments for implementing the bike-centered approach to life is the health benefits that go along with riding it on a daily basis. Namely, the public’s health and fitness levels impact the environment on a larger scale. The climate impact of biking vs. driving should be observed from the ground up, as biking contributes to the overall improvement of health, state of mind, food consumption, and polluting habits of the entire population.
Of course, all of us can’t go the way of Greta Thunberg and be as passionate and committed to the climate cause, even as much as we genuinely care about the climate impact of biking vs. driving. But, this does not mean that each contribution or change of habit, no matter how small, brings us closer to the goal of having a clean, sustainable life in a healthy environment.