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.