Environmental Sustainability and Bicycles: Three Reasons Two Wheels are Great for Cities

Bicycles are often praised for being energy efficient and non-polluting, but what exactly does this mean? And how about the environmental sustainability of bicycle networks? Here are three reasons why bicycles and bicycle networks are good for creating environmentally sustainable cities:

Embodied Energy

The amount of energy required to produce a bicycle is tiny compared to many other forms of transport. A 7.2kg road bicycle with a carbon frame uses 11,546,658,000 Joules of energy during its production compared to 118,284,466,000 for a ‘generic car’ produced in America in 2008 (Figures via WattzOn). Variations exist based on bicycle type and other external factors, but even taking this into consideration, the bicycle has a low embodied energy. Additionally, bicycle lane construction is less energy intensive than roads for automobiles, requiring a smaller amount of space and minimal foundations.

Air quality

A bicycle’s environmental sustainability is about more than just low embodied energy. If enough people switch from polluting transport modes to a bicycle – a zero emission form of transport when in use – there is potential for reduced carbon emissions and improved air quality in our cities.