I LOVE BIKING!
But I put my bike away when it starts to snow in Wisconsin. I see people who pedal through till spring, and I salute them, but there is something I don’t like about a biker’s odds in snow.
The pavement gets slippery, and the roads become narrower as snowplows pack all that white stuff to the side. Neatly-painted bike lanes disappear under a sheet of packed snow, and traffic turns into a free-for-all.
But it’s not snowing here yet, and every mile we commuters pedal —
we benefit the environment, the economy and our own health.
I just got a press release from UW-Madison yesterday that added some hard numbers to this statement.
According to a study of the largest 11 metropolitan statistical areas in the upper Midwest just published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives, here’s what we get if we replace half of short car commutes with bikes during the warmest 6 months of the year:
- Save about $3.8 billion per year from avoided mortality and reduced health care costs for conditions like obesity and heart disease.
- Save an estimated $7 billion, including 1,100 lives each year from improved air quality and increased physical fitness.
QUALITY OF LIFE BENEFITS
433 lives would be saved due to the reduction in fine particles of pollution in the air, which lodge deep in the lung and have repeatedly been tied to asthma. Even small changes reduce a chronic exposure that affects the 31.3 million people living throughout the region – not just in these metropolitan areas, but even hundreds of miles downwind,” says the study’s co-author Scott Spak.)
BIKE IT OFF AND KEEP IT OFF!
“Obesity has become a national epidemic, and not getting exercise has lot to do with that,” says first author Maggie Grabow, a Ph.D. candidate at UW-Madison’s Nelson Institute, who will present the study today (Wednesday, Nov. 2) to the American Public Health Association in Washington, D.C. She noted that commuting is a perfect way to incorporate exercise into a desk-job day and curb our growing obesity and type II diabetes epidemics.
Overall, the study may underestimate the benefits of eliminating short auto trips, because it did not measure the financial savings due to reduced auto usage, according to Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, andan environmental health specialist in the Department of Population Health Sciences.
Patz acknowledges that it’s unrealistic to expect to eliminate all short auto trips, but notes that biking as transportation is gaining popularity in the United States, and that in some cities in Northern Europe, approximately 50 percent of short trips are done by bike. “If they have achieved this, why should we not think we can achieve it too?” he asks.
He calls the new study, “a call for making our biking infrastructure safer. If there are so many health benefits out there, we ought to try to redesign our cities to achieve them without putting new riders at risk.”
By lessening the use of fossil fuels, a reduction in auto usage also benefits the climate, Patz adds. “Transportation accounts for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions, so if we can swap bikes for cars, we gain in fitness, local air quality, a reduction in greenhouse gases, and the personal economic benefits of biking rather than driving. It’s a four-way win.”
WHAT STOPS YOU FROM BIKING?
Categories: Eco activism