Bikes the Cure-All
- Forty percent of all automobile trips in the USA are less than two miles long - that is, trips of a few minutes.
- Over 66% of our automobile use is for chauffeuring and shopping purposes - in other words, running errands around town. The majority of the remaining 34% is commuting, while a small percentage is vacation and long-distance driving, and other use.
- Sixty percent of an automobile's pollution happens within the first few minutes of operation, when the motor and catalytic converter is cold and least efficient.
It's pretty easy to see that a huge percentage of automobile usage in our country could be realistically replaced by bicycle, which would fortuitously cut back on a large percentage of the pollution attributable to motor vehicles. And cutting out a large percentage of auto pollution is cutting out a large percentage overall:
- Approximately 45% of all air pollution is from vehicles - 37% of VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds), 33% of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide), 49% of NOx (Nitrous Oxides), 27% of PM (Particulate Matter), and 81% of CO (Carbon Monoxide). Every gallon of gasoline burned produces 19.4 lbs of CO2, a major greenhouse gas.
- Despite the fact that we constitute about 5% of the world's population, the United States accounts for about 44% of the world's gasoline consumption. At 2003 levels, that means that we use 125,871,114,500 (that's 125 billion, 871 million, 114 thousand, 5 hundred) gallons of gasoline annually, or about 345 million gallons every day.
- Smog - the result of the sun's rays reacting with pollutants that come primarily from our automobile tailpipes - is a major health concern in many parts of our country and the world.
Once again, the widespread usage of bicycles for around-town purposes would truly have a significant effect on some of the stickiest problems we're faced with today. It doesn't end at pollution:
- The average commuter spends nearly 10% of their waking hours in their automobile.
- Obesity rates are skyrocketing across the nation and are being accompanied by increasing rates of diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.
- The average price of a comparative automobile is four times higher than it was 20 years ago (a comparative TV set is half the price it was 20 years ago).
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost of owning an automobile is over $7000. As Michael Bluejay of Bicycle Universe has pointed out, it is very interesting to convert this cost to time spent to earn that amount of money. By his calculations, for the average American, it is about three months spent working per year, just to pay for the automobile.
Not only are we screwing up the environment in which we live, we're spending more cash and becoming less healthy! Logically, this is due at least in part to our propensity to jump in a car for trips of under two miles.
- Almost 90% of all trips in the USA are made by automobile, compared to 76% in Canada and 45% in the Netherlands. It isn't that Canada and the Netherlands have lovely weather all the time - for example, cycling rates in the Yukon Territory of Canada are twice that of Southern California and three times that of Florida.