A new study from researchers at the University of Southern Denmark has determined what we already knew— cycling is much better for the environment than driving conventional internal combustion vehicles.
The study took a look at the bike-loving Dutch, and quantified just how much global carbon emissions would drop if everyone hopped on their bike as much as they do in the Netherlands to get from point A to point B.
Dutch people cycle an average of 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometers) per day. If this was practiced worldwide, the study suggests that annual global carbon emissions would drop by a jaw-dropping 686 million tonnes per year. We repeat: that’s almost 700 million tonnes!
That reduction is more than the entire carbon footprint of most countries, including the UK, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Australia. Grab your helmet and start peddling!
“The significant untapped climate and health benefits of increasing bicycle use suggest an urgent need to promote sustainable bicycle use,” the authors of the study, which was published in the Communications Earth and Environment Journal, conclude.
The environmental and health benefits of cycling
Besides the environmental benefits, there are plenty of health benefits for cyclists, too.
Cycling is an effective way to positively improve health and wellness. Studies have shown riding a bike regularly can help ward off chronic diseases connected to a sedentary lifestyle.
Those who cycle to work have a 45 percent lower risk of developing cancer, and a 46 percent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It’s a stress reducer, and helps improve balance as well!
While bikes wouldn’t always be an appropriate mode of travel, the UK climate organization Hubbub asserts that around 50 percent of the journeys we take daily are less than two miles (3.2 kilometers) long. In other words, distances that are quite feasible by bike.
How many people are cycling worldwide?
Over the last 60 years, bike production has picked up speed—and certainly, during the pandemic, interest in cycling bloomed. That said, bicycling still only accounts for five percent of daily trips worldwide.
Of course, the study authors are aware that not everyone lives in a cycle-friendly region. Still, an “urgent” expansion of cycling infrastructure where possible is imperative, according to the report.
“Lessons learned from successful experiences in countries like Denmark and the Netherlands, particularly on the city level such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam, would be essential,” the study authors write.
“These include, but are not limited to, for example, proper bicycle lanes planning and construction, pro-bicycle education and culture, and policies to discourage car use through tax.”
Here at The Optimist Daily, we love sharing stories on initiatives and projects that are making biking more accessible to communities worldwide. Reach out if you have a cycling solution to share.
Source study: Communications Earth & Environment—Historical patterns and sustainability implications of worldwide bicycle ownership and use