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Look at these healthy bikers. It could be you.

2011-12-13

This Bike Could Save Your Life: An Infographic On The Massive Benefits Of Bicycling

But, really: How do you feel about losing 13 pounds? That’s just one of the many benefits of bike commuting, all of which are contained in this compelling chart.

If it hasn’t yet been pounded into your head that biking is good for you and good for society, you’re either not reading enough or incredibly stubborn. The evidence for biking abounds: It’s good for you, without being too high impact (unless that impact is a car). More bikers make cities more pleasant to live in.

And instead of spending a lot of money on fuel, bikers put that cash to better use, like buying more food to quell an enormous appetite after a long bike ride to work. A new infographic does a great job of making the case for biking in terms of dollars, health, and liveability. If you’re not convinced after this, you may never be.

If biking does such wonders, why aren’t the benefits more apparent? Shouldn’t we be a nation of lithe and fit bikers? We’re not because almost no one is biking. Just .6% of all trips are taken by bike; 90% are taken by car. No one even considers taking their bike down the street to the store, let alone to work. Increase that tiny sliver, though, and the societal benefits might end up being enormous.

In a study about what would happen if people in 11 midwestern cities (not some hippie city like Portland) spent four months a year doing half their errands by bikes, the results were staggering. In terms of health costs alone, the switch would result in $3.8 billion in savings, which is to say nothing of the resulting $3.5 billion worth of clean air. But forget money; it would also save lives. The resulting lack of car accidents would prevent enough accidents and health problems to keep 1,100 people alive over the course of a year.

But let’s be less heavy--literally. Biking is really good exercise and it makes you skinnier. The average person who starts biking to work loses 13 pounds over the next year, an exceptional health benefit. And you can see this result by comparing biking cities with nonbiking cities.

Surely, there are some dangerous correlation-equals-causation problems with these comparative stats. There is a lot about life in Holland and Germany that makes their populations less obese, not just how much they’re biking. But there is a more clear example. Portland, Oregon--yes, the aforementioned hippie city, but stick with me--has poured money into making the city a more pleasant place to bike, in an effort to get more people cycling. Now, 6% of its commuters bike.

It’s not because the city thinks it will be more fun with more bikers, it’s because it wants to realize the cost savings associated with a biking population. And this year, the city will save about $75 million. By 2040, that number will be $400 million. All for what it costs to paint some bike lanes.

The full infographic is below. Click to zoom, or look at it here.

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26 Comments

  • Quadzilla

    WOW!!! There are a bunch of excuses here.  It's too hot.  It's too cold.  I don't want to get hit.  The point is to get off you ass.  Maybe commuting on a bicycle really isn't feasible.  Well, ride after work.  Oh wait, it's too dark.  Buy a light!

    Or, continue on your path of sedentary and wait for the big one, if you're not involved in a major motor collision before then.

    Just say'n  

  • Chiu

    Yeah the weather is a huge one.  There are few places with a sizable population with a climate that is either way too hot or cold 12 months of the year.  Here in Florida the summers (about 4 months) are very humid and hot, and the two bordering months can still be quite uncomfortable for most people.  Fair enough.  But what about the other 6-8 months?  ...Nope, don't see anymore cyclists in those months than in the summer.  

  • cycleguy55

    While not as active as I once was, I still consider myself a cyclist. I'm also somewhat of a linguist so, while this is a good article, I certainly wish the author(s) of this and other articles on cycling would use the term cyclist, not biker, (and cycling, not biking) to distinguish us from the motorcycle crowd.

  • david.harrison

    For biking to increase, it has to be more safe.  This means reliable bike lanes, and NOT sharing the road with motorized vehicles, where your life is in the hands of every drunken redneck coming up behind you in a pickup truck!
    Personally, I would love to bike to work.  But after being run off the road the third time, it was clearly bad for my health. 

  • Bike2work2000

    David Harrison - You may want to consider enrolling in a cycling course offered by the league of American Bicyclists, which will teach you how to avoid accidents. Not to say that it will provide 100% protection (what can?), it can provide you with techniques to bring the statistical probability of bike-car collision down way low. Of course, you could also be hit by a drunk driver walking on the sidewalk, but that's another conversation.

  • Joshua Holmes

    Unfortunately, Portland has a climate that is more amenable to biking
    than a lot of American cities.  Its winters aren't as cold and its
    summers aren't as hot.  My home city of Philadelphia has long stretches
    of Triple H weather: hazy, hot, and humid.  Biking isn't very practical
    because you'll stink by the time you get to work, and most offices don't have locker rooms.  Likewise, in the
    winter, Philadelphia has long stretches of bitterly cold weather and
    considerably icy conditions, which makes biking treacherous (the roads
    melt before the bike trails do).  Most American cities have similar problems: consider Chicago's winters or Jacksonville's summers.

  • Chris

    This is absolutely right. While there is much to condemn about American obesity and sedentary lifestyles, the fact that most of Europe enjoys a temperate climate, whereas much of the US does not, is certainly a factor.

  • Pipsa Kamarainen

    Cycling does involve input from both, the end users ar well as politicians. Most important thing is to plan safe and working bicycle routes. If your lucky enough to live in a bicycle friendly city, all you need to worry is having a lock with you and looking outside before dressing yourself.

    Weather on the other hand isn't a problem. You don't need to cycle all year round for it to be beneficial. I live in Finland, and we have four very different season, everything from -30°C (-22°F)and snow to +30°C (86°F) and sunshine. When it's freezing or raining sideways I don't cycle, still I can cycle around 80% of the time. If you're not racing and your in moderate health you don't sweat even when keeping a brisk speed.

    I would like to emphasize that I am not a bicycle enthusiast. Among young adults it is very rare to own a car, as it is very inconvenient, slow and expensive to use. Even people living in cities that own a car do not use is for short distances or daily commuting.

  • c.

    They should have used Minneapolis as the better example.  We have bikers here in the winter, goggles and 5 degree weather.  We have bikers here in the summer 95 and humid to boot.  Our numbers are beginning to edge out Portland's numbers for female bikers as well and sheer numbers.  Try it.  You might be surprised at how much better your body can adjust to the weather with proper clothing and a few less pounds.  Healthier people can handle temperature extremes better.

  • Dave Hendry

    The problem faced by cycling is twofold. Number one is it is not considered sexy. No matter what else you do if you can't get the product to seem cool and sexy your dead. Ipods wouldn't sell for beans if people weren't sold on the sizzle. Second no matter all the logic in the world people still can't imagine a life of activity on purpose. While I was a member of a large cycling club here in Niagara I was always astonished at the number of members who drove with their bikes on a rack or in the trunk to the start of the bike rides. They would then obsessively record exactly how far they rode that day and put it into computer programmes to keep track of their fitness. I've also witnessed many driving to the local gym to spend an hour on the stationary bike to get their exercise. It is as though they can't grasp the idea of exercise as part of the environment instead of a special activity divorced form the rest of their daily activities. The up side is that as the price of driving continues to rise more and more will eventually realize the wonders of the bike.

  • Chiu

    That's true, but I've yet to meet a Dutch who was annoyed by this.  Many of them referred to their country as Holland when speaking the English tongue.  

  • Tyler Schuett

    You have to account for land mass... a lot of people have to commute a lot further in america than euro countries do.... For many people it's just not feasible.

  • Tucson Pedaler

    Agreed,  Bikes will not be for everyone and every trip.  However, the stat that is mentioned here of 70% of trips being under 2 miles is the one we need to focus on. My office is 26 miles away.  I am somewhat a bikeaholic and do ride on occasion, but it is not easy and I would not expect others to ride.  So forget the long commuters and focus on the low hanging fruit. Imagine if only 10% of the trips under 2 miles were onbibe instaed of cars.  We would see  7% of all trips on bikes.  That would have a dramatic impact- call it a Portland like impact.