I want to ride my bicycle!
Bicycles, a “micromobility” option, are a great alternative to cars and other fossil fuel transport (LoBasso, 2019). Global temperatures are increasing and expected to climb further if no changes are made, with temperatures rising as much as 3 degrees by 2030 (LoBasso, 2019). The small spike in temperature will be responsible for extreme weather events like droughts, wildfires, and floods. In 2015, a study was conducted by the Institute for Transportation, which demonstrated that carbon dioxide emissions from urban passenger transport may decrease by 11% by 2050 if switched to alternative modes of transportation. Additionally, there could be savings of $24 trillion between 2015 and 2050 (Mason, Fulton, and Davis, 2015). But the US falls behind other countries in the implementation of bike transit. 6% of transportation is done by bike in other large countries such as China, Japan, and a few European countries. Comparatively, 1% of trips are made by bike (Mason, Fulton, and Davis, 2015).
There are obvious health benefits to cycling. Cycling is linked to a “lower risk of cancer and heart disease.” Biking for at least 2 hours a week has shown improvement in overall health. It is less damaging to the body compared to alternative forms of exercise like running. Biking increases stamina, strength, and aerobic fitness leading to cardiovascular fitness, improved muscle strength and flexibility, decreased stress, decreased body fat levels, and much more (BetterHealth, 2013).
Additionally, biking acts as an equalizer making cities more equitable. Biking is the main mode of transportation for minorities and low-income communities (Atre, 2020). However, bicycle infrastructure plays a large role in accessibility to biking as the main mode of transportation. Infrastructure is tied to gentrification. Streets Blog USA believes that there are “safety disparities associated with gentrification” […] suggesting equity issues that should be further investigated (Short, 2019). Listen to this interview about how cycling contributes to gentrification.
Yet, biking is an undoubtable a necessary step to curb carbon emissions and tackle climate change. Earl Blumenauer’s Congressional Bike Caucus of Oregon states biking is one of the most efficient modes of transportation. It is “low-cost, creates little wear and tear on the roads, and boosts local economies.” There are steps that must be taken to promote bicycle transportation.
Bicycle infrastructure must be installed. Biking must be accessible and safe. The lack of infrastructure does not encourage bicycling behavior. The number of cyclists killed in 2020 was 697, a decrease from previous years, where in 2018 there were 857 deaths (Nelson |Bikemaps.org). The decline could reflect the pandemic because there is no indication the streets are getting safer. Bikemaps.org collected information that the deaths were occurring all over the country in 47 states and nearly every major metropolitan city (Fox & Wheelan, 2021). Institute for Transportation and Development Policy recommends revisions of law and enforcement policies to better protect cycling and walking. Additionally, clearly demarcated bike lines that are protected and separated could also improve safety. In Colorado and New Mexico, there were 44% fewer deaths when bikes lines were separated (Short, 2019). Another potential way to encourage bicycling is to subsidize bicycle transportation much in the way there are tax benefits for those who opted into buying electric cars and hybrids.
So, although there is widespread support for cycling as an alternative to car transit to help reduce the impact of climate change, there is an interesting opposition. The negative impacts of cycling according to naysayers include sexual dysfunction causing numbness in the penis and risk of erectile dysfunction and decreased sensation in women. Here are the studies. I would encourage you to look at the sample sizes and the conclusions because will some associations were made, I believe the results are spurious.
2015 Report, A Global High Shift Cycling Scenario: https://www.itdp.org/2015/11/12/a-global-high-shift-cycling-scenario/
What We Learned from Tracking Cycling Deaths for a Year: https://www.outsideonline.com/2420196/what-we-learned-tracking-cycling-deaths-year
Cycling — health benefits: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/cycling-health-benefits
Separated Bike Lanes Means Safer Streets, Study Says: https://usa.streetsblog.org/2019/05/29/protect-yourself-separated-bike-lanes-means-safer-streets-study-says/
The Congressional Bike Caucus: https://blumenauer.house.gov/congressional-bike-caucus
The Power of Bicycles to Fight Climate Change: https://bicyclecoalition.org/the-power-of-bicycles-to-fight-climate-change/