How Bicycling Connects Us to a Healthier Community and Stronger Economy

Bicycle transportation is at the intersection of personal, community, and global health. It epitomizes the reverberating effect that individual choices have on the world around us. Bicycling can empower us to become healthier, happier, and more in touch with the world we live in.

Biking is fun, cost-effective, and safe. We believe that the more people ride bikes, the stronger we will grow as a community. The positive effects can be hard to put into quantifiable terms, but as the bike movement grows, so does our ability to provide critical assessment and state measurable benefits.

Did we miss an important benefit in the list below? Let us know in a comment (and please link to your source).

 

COMMUNITY

Cities with high bicycling rates tend to have lower crash rates for all road users.  link

If the number of kids who walk and bike to school returned to 1969 levels, it would save 3.2 billion vehicle miles, 1.5 million tons of CO2 and 89,000 tons of other pollutants annually. This is the equivalent of keeping more than 250,000 cars off the road for a year. link

Volunteering by bike with Friends of Trees.

There are 800 million car parking spaces in the U.S., totaling 160 billion square feet of concrete and asphalt. The environmental impact of all car parking spaces adds 10 percent to the CO2 emissions of the average automobile. link

After bicycle lanes were installed post-Katrina on a New Orleans, Louisiana street, there was a 57% increase in the number of cyclists. The number of female cyclists increased 133%, and the percentage of cyclists riding in the correct direction increased from 73% to 82%. link

In Portland, 41% of kids bike and walk to school (compared to just 11% nationally).

A $40-million-a-year bicycle industry is growing in the Portland region, providing between 850 and 1,150 jobs for area families. link

Portlanders drive less than people in other cities, and as a result we keep $800 million a year in our local economy. link

 

HEALTH

Bicycle commuting burns an average of 540 calories per hour. link

Bike commuters report lower stress and greater feelings of freedom, relaxation, and excitement than car commuters. link 

Biking to work reduces the stress of commuting and adds activity to your daily routine.

According to the federal government, biking for transportation can count toward the minimum 150 minutes/week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity recommended for physical health. It is also listed as the safest way to get physical activity. link 

Countries with the highest levels of cycling and walking generally have the lowest obesity rates. link

 

ECONOMY

A Dutch study found that cyclists spend less per visit than motorists at supermarkets, but they visit more often. As a result, cyclists account for at least as much spending as people arriving by car. link

The average American household spends an entire three months’ pay on transportation. link

Americans spend more on transportation than any other category except housing. On average, 18% of household expenditures are for transportation. link

 

Local businesses benefit when more customers can park bikes in what used to be a single car parking space.

By 2017, Portland, Oregon residents will have saved $64 million in health care costs thanks to bicycling. By 2040, the city will have invested $138-605 million in bicycling yet saved $388-594 million in health care costs and $143-218 million in fuel costs, a benefit-cost ratio of up to 4 to 1. link

When San Francisco made its Valencia Street less conducive to automobile travel and better for bicyclists and pedestrians, nearly 40% of merchants reported increased sales and 60% reported more area residents shopping locally due to reduced travel time and convenience. Two-thirds of merchants said the increased levels of bicycling and walking improved business. link

Bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects create up to double the jobs (11-14) of road infrastructure projects (7) per $1 million spent. link

A report estimated that Portland, Oregon’s regional trail network saves the city approximately $115 million per year in healthcare costs. link

 

Comment

Comments (2)

  1. Noah G Permalink  | Dec 06, 2011 11:09pm

    Nice post! Gives my daily commute ride a feeling of victory. Stitching the community with every pedal.

  2. Matt BK Permalink  | Dec 07, 2011 04:14pm

    I think these are good points, but in the interest of helping to win over people who are stuck in a car monoculture, I’d suggest two things.

    First, you should point out exactly why “keeping cars off the road” is good for community. It removes congestion, reduces noise, allows people to stop and chat while they are commuting, all of which strengthen the ties between people who live in the community.

    Second, you should move all the environmental issues to a separate section. There are more than enough reasons for people to ride bicycles without shoving “the environment” or “climate change” down people’s throats. Note that I agree completely that it’s good for the environment to commute by bicycle, but I know it’s a sensitive subject with some people; if you give these people other reasons that they can personally get behind as human beings or consumers, you have a better chance at getting them into cycling.

    Thanks for all the citations, this is a good resource overall.

    Matt


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