Fifty percent of car trips are less than 2 miles in the US, with less than 1% made by bicycle, unlike Holland’s 30%. Cities like Boulder CO at 21%, Davis CA at 20%, and Minneapolis at 2% which though well above national average could still be improved. A 2-mile bike ride can easily be done by most Americans when running errands. This could improve health while saving on gas bills and car maintenance. It could also be a family activity.
In 1969, about half of total students bicycled or walked to schools, unlike today where the over half are driven in private vehicles, a quarter on school buses with less than 15% walking or bicycling. If this trend was reversed, the benefits would be great- childhood obesity and diabetes could be reduced. Children, who cycle, are likely to continue cycling as they age, as it is a low impact fitness activity that can be done for life.
Bicycling for the economy
Surgeon General says about 300,000 US deaths per year are obese or overweight related. In 2002, 11.6% of private medical spending was obesity-related, a huge leap from the 2% in 1987. Bicycles are cheaper than automobiles to buy and maintain. Six to twenty bicycles can be parked in space needed for one car. They also cause negligible wear and tear on roads.
Bicycling for the environment
Motor vehicle emissions constitute 31% total Carbon dioxide, 81% Carbon monoxide and 49% of Nitrogen oxides released in the US. 15 pounds of pollutants can be avoided by a 4 mile round trip by bicycle but 82% of trips 5 miles or less are made by personal vehicles. Sixty percent of pollution by automobile emissions occurs within the first few minutes before pollution control devices start working effectively. Therefore, long car trips are better than shorter ones on a per mile basis.
Out of Americans who want to bike, 40% said they would if safe facilities were available. Bicycling is the second most preferred transportation mode after automobile, above public transportation. More Americans are concerned about transport choices on quality of life and are willing to consider bicycling especially due to traffic congestion that leads to them spending 75 minutes a day in their cars. Thirty-eight percent (79.1 million) of Americans say that availability of walkways, sidewalks, and bikeways influence the choice of a place to live.
The estimated cost for constructing one bicycle parking space in a paved lot is $ 2,200 unlike the $ 12,500 needed for one car parking space in a garage.
Bicycling for health
Bicycling can help reduce the rising healthcare costs and the obesity epidemic which caused 400,000 deaths in 2002. Poor diet and physical inactivity cater for 16.6% of all deaths recorded. On average, overweight and obese individuals use up to $ 1,500 more in annual medical costs. Bicycling can get one moving improving physical fitness and aiding in weight loss. It may also reduce the risk of osteoporosis and depression while improving the psychological and mental health and overall quality of life.
Obesity is second with tobacco at third in US health risk factors. According to the CDC, which has just recently expressed growing concern over America’s overweight problem, reported that those obese or overweight are 61% of adults, 13% of kids of 6-11 years and 14% of kids 12-19 years. Seventy percent of US adults are sedentary with 28% engaging in no leisure-time physical activity and 42% who undertake less than 30 minutes of daily physical activity.
Bicycling for transportation
Being solely human powered, bicycles use no fossil fuels. They presently displace over 238 million gallons of gasoline per year by substituting car trips. With more people being aware of emissions problems to the environment and to health, it is clear that they are willing to opt for cleaner modes of transport and cycling is at the top of this in addition to cleaner automobiles using electricity and battery.
In fact, I would not be surprised if, in a few years, customers will have the option of a bicycle in stock in auto-dealerships, not just to cater to this environment protection conscious market but for the car dealers to leverage on likely dwindling car sales.