How green cycling can be, and what is its role in global climate action?
Pedalling your way past a queue of idling cars gives you many advantages. One, you won’t be stuck in traffic. Two, you won’t be late to work. Three, that’s a good workout! Fourth, you take pride in doing your bit for the environment – to name a few.
Now, wouldn’t it be better if more people use bicycles as an alternative mode of transport? Think about how much carbon footprints would be cut down if they stepped off the gas for some time.
Well, how much better, exactly?
Carbon Footprint Explained
The choices you make in your daily life leave a mark on the environment. From heating your house and driving your car – to the food you buy. And that is the simple way to express the impact of carbon footprints.
To define, a carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) generated by one’s action, a.k.a. you. It’s usually expressed as the weight of carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions produced in tonnes. The sum will depend on several factors or sources, such as:
- daily commute (e.g. your mode of travel - cars, buses, planes, etc.)
- the food you eat
- clothes you buy
- everything you throw away, and more!
The concept of carbon footprints also includes other GHG emissions, like:
- nitrous oxide
- chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
The larger your footprint, the heavier the strain on the environment. To avoid its worst impacts, shifting to low-carbon alternatives is a great place to start. Take sustainable energy options, e.g. solar panels and wind energy, for example. Another step is reducing emissions from transport through cycling.
Environmental Impact of Regular Cycling
Nothing can come much ‘greener’ than cycling when it comes to transportation modes. Every turn of the pedal is on par with 67% fewer carbon emissions, according to research. Whether you cycle to work, school, or grocery - or to keep fit, you help protect the planet in one way or another.
To begin with, cycling is a great habit to get into, be it a form of leisure or commute. With lower environmental impact than cars, it’s a surefire way to enter a more sustainable way of living. For one, riding a bike emits no harmful toxins = no exposure to air pollution.
That reduces the risks of heart and respiratory diseases, as well as lung cancer, in return. At the same time, less GHG emissions are released to pollute the atmosphere.
It’s one small change in your lifestyle that can immensely help combat the climate crisis. And we’re just getting started!
1. Reduces air pollution
Air pollution, in a nutshell, is the release of pollutants into the air. These are detrimental to human health and the planet as a whole.
Driving vehicles, like cars, is one of the biggest contributors to this. For one, car fuels include gases like CO₂ and nitrogen dioxide. When released in large volumes, they pose a threat to the environment. In fact, this is a common issue the world is facing regarding climate change.
This is where bike riding takes part in reducing air pollution doses. Cycling releases little to no CO₂ into the air, giving it a major environmental advantage. This also means that biking cuts back on heavy fuel oil consumption.
To start, aim to ride your bike 2 miles a day, five days a week, instead of driving. Doing so, you’d offset this initial footprint in less than a year. Even better, switching short car trips for a cycle will keep you physically fit, too!
2. Lessens noise pollution
Pollution doesn’t just come in invisible gas form, but it also develops ‘noise’. Noise pollution is any unwanted sound that can adversely affect human health. Wildlife and environmental quality are also affected.
Some of its major causes are vehicles, planes, industrial machines, loudspeakers, and crackers. The less noise from vehicles, traffic queues and the like, the lower the noise pollution there is.
Cycling, walking even, is an excellent solution to this. It reduces the number of motor vehicles on the road and lowers congestion and engine noise. Slowly replacing cars and motorcycles with bikes ensures reduced air and noise pollution. What’s more, road users will have less exposure to such emissions.
3. Boosts biodiversity
Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth in a particular space or area. Plus how these species interact with each other and the physical world around them. These include different plants, animals and microorganisms, etc.
Now, what does cycling have to do with this? Well, it turns out that one of its environmental benefits is to improve biodiversity. How?
Cycling for shorter journeys does so, creating less noise and air pollution. This results in fewer emissions that warm the atmosphere.
Over time, the need for surfaces to be paved for vehicles will be less necessary. This can mean more green spaces by default. You’re doing your bit to boost biodiversity and protect the wildlife within them!
4. Global warming solution
Cycling has been playing its role in a low-carbon, greener future for the planet. It’s true that human activity contributes big-time to global warming, and you already know that by now. But the good thing is that humans, including you, also have the power to enact positive change.
According to data from Cycling UK, 6% of urban passenger miles are from cycling. Increasing this to 11% by 2030 and 14% by 2050 can have a potential impact - positively. For one, this could cut CO₂ emissions from passenger transport by 7% and 11%, respectively.
Such small steps will help slow the effect of climate emergencies. Furthermore, reduce the risk of extreme and unpredictable weather.
5. Brighter future
The effects of climate change pose risks to the present and future generations. Fossil fuels and public transport vehicles are one of the leading causes of an increase in GHG. The more it rises in the atmosphere, the more it produces that warming effect fuelling for:
- and other extreme events
But cycling as a mode of travel, as simple as it is, is a legitimate climate solution. And when a nation sees cycling as more than a hobby or sport, the changes can be huge - in a good way.
Many can have access to an affordable means of transport, for instance. Most importantly, we could save up to 6 to 14 million tons of carbon dioxide (or more!) a year.
Cycling will not only aid in the reduction of pollution but will also aid in health improvement. Not only riding on two wheels, not behind the wheel, is a greener alternative, but also it’s more affordable.
So, when possible, start shifting to pedals and reduce your carbon footprint. It’s one of the best things you can do to help the environment while reaping promising benefits!