Environmental Students Organization

California State University, Sacramento

Bicycling Facts

RIDE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

Article by the League of American Bicyclists

Motor vehicle emissions represent 31 percent of total carbon dioxide, 81 percent of carbon monoxide, and 49 percent of nitrogen oxides released in the U.S. (The Green Commuter, a publication of the Clean Air Council). A short, four-mile round trip by bicycle keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air we breathe. (WorldWatch Institute).

According to the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, 25 percent of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40 percent of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50 percent of the working population commutes five miles or less to work. Yet more than 82 percent of trips five miles or less are made by personal motor vehicle.

60 percent of the pollution created by automobile emissions happens in the first few minutes of operation, before pollution control devices can work effectively. Since "cold starts" create high levels of emissions, shorter car trips are more polluting on a per-mile basis than longer trips.

Michael Oppenheimer, the chief scientist at Environmental Defense, said, "If you reduced carbon dioxide, you'd begin to get rid of most of the stuff that causes these everyday respiratory problems. You'd start to get rid of the nitrogen oxides, which lead to the generation of smog. You'd start to get rid of sulfur dioxide, which leads not only to acid rain but to the tiny particles that people breathe, and which cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems."

A Rodale Press survey found that Americans want to have the opportunity to bike to work instead of driving, with 40 percent of those surveyed saying they would commute by bike if safe facilities were available.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) October 2000 Omnibus Household Survey, 41.3 million Americans (20.0 percent) used a bicycle for transportation in the 30 days measured in the survey. Bicycling is the second most preferred form of transportation after the automobile, ahead of public transportation. More than 9.2 million (22.3 percent) of the 41.3 million people who bicycled did so more than ten of the 30 days.

Several findings from the BTS study indicate a growing concern among Americans with the impact of transportation choices on quality of life and a willingness to consider bicycling as part of the solution. Half of all Americans (99.0 million people) believe that cars, SUVs, pickups, and vans are the primary cause of air pollution in their communities and 65 percent (135.4 million) are concerned about the level of traffic congestion on the roads in their communities. (They have a right to feel this way: Americans spend 75 minutes a day in their car.) Some 79.1 million (38 percent) of all Americans feel that the availability of bikeways, walking paths, and sidewalks for getting to work, shopping, and recreation is very important in choosing where to live.

Motor vehicle emissions represent 31 percent of total carbon dioxide, 81 percent of carbon monoxide, and 49 percent of nitrogen oxides released in the U.S. (The Green Commuter, a publication of the Clean Air Council). Short car trips (over distances that could easily be bicycled) are much more polluting than longer trips on a per-mile basis because 60 percent of the pollution resulting from auto emissions is released during the first few minutes of operation of a vehicle.

A few bike parking vs. car parking statistics:

Number of bikes that can be parked in one car parking space in a paved lot: 6-20.

Number of racks for bicycle parking in Seattle: 1,900.

Estimated cost of constructing one parking space in a paved lot: $2,200.

Estimated cost of constructing one parking space in a garage: $12,500.

Recreational bike riding is a safe, low-impact, aerobic activity for Americans of all ages. Bike commuting is an ideal solution to the need for moderate physical activity, which can be practiced five times a week. A 130-pound cyclist burns 402 calories while pedaling 14 miles in an hour. A 180-pound cyclist burns 540 calories while pedaling 14 miles in an hour.

  • Research shows that regular cycling can cut the chances of heart disease in half.
  • It is often faster to bicycle to work than to drive if your commute is through streets clogged with traffic congestion.
  • In an urban environment, people living up to 7.2 miles from their workplace can commute by bike in less than one hour (some, a lot less!) Also, a roadway can carry about three times as many cyclists as people in cars.
  • It is usually easier to park a bike than it is a car, and it is certainly less expensive.
  • On a bicycle you take up little space, burn no gasoline and produce no waste, and a bike can travel 960 miles on the equivalent energy of a gallon of gas
  • Cycling may save money by reducing the wear on your automobile.
  • Between 70 and 100 bicycles can be built with the resources required to build one car.

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