The WorldWatch Institute is a stellar independent research organization helping to create “an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs.” When I was doing research for my Master’s thesis on the relationship between bicycle facilities and bicycle travel, I ran across a great WorldWatch Institute publication from 1989 (before bicycling was so hip) titled The Bicycle: Vehicle for a Small Planet that contained lots of useful and hard to find information on the benefits of bicycling and bicycle statistics from around the world.
Another lover of this small book, Warren McLaren of TreeHugger, wrote an article recently that brought my attention to the WorldWatch Institute again. Apparently, the WorldWatch Institute just published the final issue of its print magazine. And, with bicycling still being one of the best things you can do to help keep the planet livable for humans and other species, the focus of this final issue is bicycling.
The whole issue (and the book above) are good to read in their entirety, but if you just want to see a few snippits, here is some great information from each.
From the magazine’s lead article, “Power to the Pedals“:
“A bicycle commuter who rides four miles to work, five days a week, avoids 2,000 miles of driving and (in the United States) about 2,000 pounds of CO2 emissions, each year.”
“… countries with the highest levels of cycling have the lowest levels of cycling fatalities.”
“… some 700,000 car trips in Lyon, and 2,160,000 in Paris, are foregone each year because of bike-sharing.”
“In the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany … a number of cities boast cycling rates of greater than 20 percent, and even 30 percent, of urban trips (compared with about 1 percent of trips in most U.S. and Australian cities). Amsterdam is a standout, with 38 percent of all trips made by bicycle in 2008. Half of Amsterdam’s residents ride a bike daily, 85 percent ride at least once a week, and remarkably, people over 65 use bicycles for one-quarter of all trips.” (So, it is possible to have the bicycle be a main mode of transport in wealthy, industrialized countries with a high standard of living. In fact, it greatly improves the standard of living in such places.)
“Survey data from the U.S. Department of Transportation show that half of all trips in the United States are 3 miles (5 kilometers) or less in length, a distance widely regarded as bikable for most adults. Yet 72 percent of those trips are made in cars; less than 2 percent are made by bicycle. Even for trips of a mile or less, private vehicles account for 60 percent of trips in the United States.”
If you’re concerned about safety: “… the health benefits of physical activity are cumulative, ‘meaning that three 10-minute biking trips provide sufficient levels of physical activity to protect against sedentary lifestyle diseases,’ … a person is seven times more likely to be hospitalized playing football than riding a bike … [and] the British Medical Association has reported that the health risks of inactivity are 20 times greater than the risks from cycling.”
There’s much more in the article, so I recommend reading the whole piece via the link above.
From The Bicycle: Vehicle for a Small Planet (but remember this info is from a couple decades ago, so some of this has probably changed a bit):
“Bicycles in Asia alone transport more people than do all the world’s autos.”
“… a bicycle can increase a person’s travel capacity (a combination of speed and payload) by at least five time over that of walking.”
constructing a road for bicycles or other non-motorized transport in Ghana “would cost [...] roughly 8 percent of the cost of a conventional rural road.”
“… 100 bicycles can be manufactured for the energy and materials it takes to build a medium-sized car.”
“Perhaps the greatest potential for change lies with the individual cyclist. Pressing employers and local authorities to provide cycling facilities — and simply using bicycles whenever possible — can have great impact.”
Get on a bike today! Don’t have a bike? Go to the bike shop and get one! It’s the greenest way to get around.