The increasing popularity of electric bicycles with their convenient electric boost has seen more and more commuters riding each day, especially car drivers who wouldn’t have otherwise opted for two wheels. This growth in cycling has spawned calls for improved bike lanes and additional bicycling infrastructure.
Some drivers have interpreted this call for safer bike lanes as if it was some type of “war on cars”. In actuality, car drivers should love seeing more people on bikes and e-bikes. In fact, it’d be better for them if they encouraged more people to switch to bikes. Here’s why.
More cyclists means less traffic
It shouldn’t take any major leaps of logic to realize that each person riding a bike to work or the store can help take another car off the road. Even if you never plan to give up your car entirely, each bike rider means one less car currently on the road creating traffic. Remember: you aren’t stuck in traffic; you are traffic.
But what you might not realize is just what a big impact on traffic reduction bikes can make. A study in Belgium found that when just 10% of drivers switch to two-wheelers, traffic congestion decreases by 40%! Another study in Atlanta, Georgia found that during a period when the city banned rental scooters, travel time for car trips increased by around 10%. And that’s even with many people still riding their own private scooters and bikes!
Suffice it to say that the more people using bikes, scooters, motorcycles, and other personal vehicles, the less traffic for everyone.
More bikes means more parking
You know who doesn’t take up parking spots? Cyclists. The next time you’re driving laps around the block looking for parking or zig-zagging through a packed parking lot, remember that the reason for the lack of parking spots is that everyone is driving a car, just like you. If more people rode bikes, you’d have more empty parking spots.
It’d be pretty easy, too. If you supported initiatives that encourage more people to ride a bike in your city, you’d be sitting pretty in your parking spot more often. It doesn’t cost that much to replace that painted stripe on the ground with bollards, separating the bike lane in a safe way that encourages more people to ride bikes. Just think of all those big, beautiful parking spots those cyclists would be freeing up!
You could have better roads
No one likes driving on beaten-up, pockmarked roads. No one likes dodging road debris. And no one likes waiting for lengthy road construction projects that repair all of that accumulated road damage.
You probably see where this is going. Bikes don’t wear down road surfaces or leave hub caps in the middle of intersections. They’re lightweight vehicles that often don’t even mingle with cars on roads – at least not when they’re given their own protected bike lanes to use.
What you might not realize is just how extreme the difference in road wear truly is. The damage to a road increases with the weight of the vehicle according to the fourth power law. To oversimplify it, a vehicle that is twice as heavy per axle doesn’t do twice as much road damage, but rather 16 times as much. If you consider the average cyclist and bike weight to be 250 pounds compared to an average car at 4,000 pounds, that car is doing around 65,000 times the damage to the road surface. The difference is mind-boggling.
If more people rode bikes, there’d be incredibly less wear and tear on the roads. That means roads would be smoother and more comfortable each day, and there’d be less frequent road work performing repairs. Ultimately, that makes everyone’s lives better.
Drivers will feel better when other people ride bikes
When more people ride bikes around you instead of driving, you’ll feel better.
Stick with me, I’ll show you why.
Even the most ardent car drivers have a basic understanding that the exhaust coming out of their car is “not good”. If someone asked you to put your lips around the tailpipe as they turn on your car, you’d probably protest. And I’m guessing the same goes for if someone asked your kid to do the same.
So we all know car emissions are bad. But you might not realize just how bad. Studies put the number of premature deaths worldwide due to automotive exhaust pollution at around a third of a million people each year. That amounted to 361,000 people in 2010 and 385,000 in 2015.
The exhaust from combustion engines is a killer, plain and simple. People literally use car exhaust to kill themselves. Here’s a grim metric from Australia: until catalytic converters became standard, the rate of suicide by car exhaust increased faster than the rate of vehicle registrations.
All of this car exhaust in the air is quite simply poisoning you. Yes, statistically speaking you will likely not be one of the nearly 400,000 people this year to actually die from it. But what other medical problems is it still causing you? The more people that switch from cars to bikes, the less particulate pollution is in the air and the healthier you will be.
And don’t for a second think “Ok, but maybe people can just drive electric cars and that will fix it.” Electric vehicles don’t have tailpipe emissions, but their heavier weights actually cause more tire pollution. Those microscopic bits of tire that get flung into the air eventually either get breathed in or settle into the water system. Either way, they work their way into our bodies and kill us in a slightly different way. We’re only recently learning just how bad this stuff is for us. In fact, particulate pollution from tires is up to 2,000 times worse than tailpipe emission pollution from modern cars. Fun!
And don’t even get me started on the extremely carcinogenic brake pad pollution from cars and trucks.
Long story short: more people riding bikes means that you live in a cleaner and healthier world. Your morning coffee has less tiny bits of tire in it and you won’t die as early from preventable causes like lung cancer or one of dozens of other ailments caused by car pollution.
More people riding bikes makes you richer
Want more money? Tell your friends to ride a bike.
I mean, you too could also save a huge amount of money riding a bike. But even if you’re sticking to your car, other people riding bikes saves you money.
That reduced traffic? It saves you fuel cost and increases your productivity by spending less time idling in the middle of the road.
That reduced road wear? Those are your tax dollars that don’t have to be spent on road repairs.
That increased health of the society around you? There are untold healthcare savings there. Insurance companies don’t have to charge as much, dropping your own premiums. Tax dollars don’t have to go towards as much healthcare. You don’t have to buy your kid an inhaler because he never got asthma from the extra car exhaust produced by drivers like you.
That’s all extra money in your pocket, all because a bunch of people started riding their bikes.
What have we learned?
Here’s the thing: all of these benefits can only happen if more people get out of their cars and get onto a bike. More people need to turn from drivers into riders. Electric bikes, which make cycling easier (and can make it basically effortless if you use a throttle-controlled e-bike) have made the biggest strides in getting more people onto bike seats. So if you really want to enjoy these benefits, consider giving a bike a try.
But even if you can never see yourself getting around without your car, then you can still enjoy every single one of these benefits simply by encouraging others to use bikes. Support bike lanes being installed in your city. Support incentives for e-bikes. Support safety campaigns that help drivers become more aware of e-bikes. Hell, take an extra glance yourself at intersections for cyclists.
You can sit pretty in your SUV and live a better life simply by helping the rest of us feel better riding our bikes. It’s one of those rare cases where a rising tide lifts all ships. Let’s ride that tide to a more cycling-friendly world, baby!
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