By Larraine Roulston :
When we rode a two-wheeler for the very first time, we were joyful and felt freedom along with a sense of power. With the breeze in our faces, I’m sure we all wish we could have cycled like that forever.
Unfortunately for the environment, the automotive industry encouraged society to desire the combustion engine. (Not a difficult task to promote speed, convenience, room for passengers and luggage.) Once considered a luxury item, cars soon became known as a convenience; however, with the infrastructure favoring the automobile, before long it grew into a modern day necessity.
If we were to shift toward cycling for our primary transportation within urban centers, it would mean quite a few changes:
Decrease in Carbon Emissions: Large amounts of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere are causing changes in climatic patterns and cycles. The US Environmental Protection Agency says that nearly 12,000 pounds of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere each year. Its findings state that for every mile driven in a car, one pound of carbon dioxide is released into the air. The report notes that an individual biker can reduce his or her contribution to the CO2 global warming tally by 20 percent. Another study from the University of California stated that by increasing cycling infrastructure, it could not only save cities $25 trillion but also reduce transportation-related CO2 emissions by 10% by the year 2050.
Less Fossil Fuel Use: Currently, developed countries rely heavily on fossil fuel to fill the tanks of most vehicles. Fossil fuel has to be extracted from the ground. During its removal from the earth and transportation to the refinery, it can also become an environmental hazard such as that experienced in the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists claim that fossil fuel should remain in the ground. By cycling, there would be a reduction in both oil extraction and oil spills.
Less Automobile Waste: To their credit, auto manufacturers are off to a promising start. According to Argonne National Labs in the US, about 75% of a total car can be recycled. Although we are seeing more recyclable parts, approximately three million tons of cumulative non-recyclable waste from discarded cars annually still remain. Cyclists who use their bikes for urban travel and rely on the car only for distance trips would extend the life of their cars.
Elimination of Heavy Road Construction: The construction of wider highways and city roads for convenient automobile travel demands even more use for fossil fuel. A decrease in automobile reliance would result in less of our beloved landscape being paved over.
Reduction of Parking Space: Land used for large urban parking places would be substantially reduced. As well, less concrete would be needed to build layers of underground or overhead parking garages. Finding available bike parking in any crowded city area would be a cinch.
Better Air Quality: Sadly, the Environmental Protection Agency says that vehicular transportation makes up 33 percent of gas emissions in the US. Its findings reveal that over half of this percentage is due to automobile exhaust. By cycling more often, we would benefit from additional exercise and at the same time improve the quality of the air we breathe. It makes urban sense to revise laws as well as to invest in infrastructure to benefit cycling on a much larger scale.
Larraine authors illustrated children’s adventure books on composting. Visit www.castlecompost.com