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Can Biking Save The World? Maybe

Drew Kries


Two people resting outside while they ride their Schwinn Mesa bikes on a trail.

If you love your mother, like, really, really love your mother, ride your bike more.

In this case, "mother" means Mother Earth. And as we approach Earth Day on April 22, there is rock-solid body of evidence that indicates bike riding can have wide-ranging positive effects on Mother Earth. From clean air, to increased wildlife populations to supporting vibrant small businesses, bike riding is straight-up beneficial all the way around. Let's take a look at some of the specifics.

Man riding his Schwinn Network commuter bike on a bike path in a city.

Cuts the carbon

This is the obvious benefit, right? The Environmental Protection Agency says the average passenger vehicle emits some 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. Riding your bike emits, well, zero carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas that's contributing to warming of the planet. Naturally, we can assume that using your bike instead of your car helps reduce carbon dioxide, but we have science to back up by how much. In a deep and comprehensive study of about 2,000 people in seven European cities, researchers observed that people who switch just one car trip per day to cycling reduce their carbon emissions by about half a metric ton over the course of a year.

E-bikes are part of the solution, too, even if they are charged by a source that uses fossil fuels to generate the electricity. Various studies indicate that e-bike usage, regardless of how the bikes are charged, cuts carbon emissions dramatically compared to motor vehicle usage.

And on the subject of e-bikes, if you don't have one or have yet to ride one, consider trying one out on Earth Day. A number of cities around the U.S. are providing free e-bike rentals for all of Earth Day weekend. We think you'll like it.

Fights other pollution

Substituting a bike ride for a car ride does more than curb air pollution. Riding a bike reduces noise pollution, too. The EPA has plenty of studies about noise pollution, and motor vehicles are a leading contributor to elevated noise levels in most communities. Bikes, as we all know, aren't loud.

While we're considering noise and air pollution, let's not forget the wide array of effects motor vehicles have on the environment. Cycling eliminates discharges and leakage of toxic fluids from vehicles (think motor oil, transmission fluid and antifreeze that winds up on roads and parking lots). Biking cuts down on road kill, too. No bike rider, for instance, ever crushes a turtle crossing the road to bury her eggs, although motor vehicles are a leading cause of turtle mortality in the U.S.

Two people riding Schwinn Mendicino electric bikes down a paved path in the middle of the day with their helmets on.

Helps communities connect

Remember how much more fun it was to ride your bike to school or soccer practice with your friends than it was to be driven in by your parents? That joy of riding with friends exists for adults, too. One of the great pleasures of cycling is doing it with friends or discovering new friends as you bike around your city or neighborhood. In a time when it's far too easy to be disconnected from other people, biking can help keep people connected, but it's more than just social connectivity. When people bike, they're more likely to use local businesses.

Health boosts health

It doesn't matter if your community is rural, urban or suburban, healthy people make it a better place. “Community health impacts everything — educational achievement, safety and crime, people’s ability to work and be financially healthy, life expectancy, happiness and more,” said Thomas G. Bognanno, president and CEO of Community Health Charities in a story written for Rasmussen University. The health benefits of cycling are so lengthy and well-documented that we don't have to get into the here. Suffice it to say that biking leads to better health of individuals and that leads to healthier communities.

Additional reading

We started this by saying if you love Mother Earth you should bike more. For full disclosure, it's not an original idea, nor did we explore all the ways biking can help the world. For a deeper dive, we suggest the book "How Cycling Can Save the World" by British author Peter Walker. He makes a compelling case.

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