Are bicycles eco-friendly? Regardless of the material manufacturers use in production and ongoing discussion which one is better, riding a bicycle leaves 5-7 times less carbon footprint compared with driving the car and is better for the health. Yes, riding no bike at all leaves even less, but I will respect technological progress since bikes are regarded as one of the greatest inventions of humankind (all right it is the wheel, but bicycles are close). United Nations General Assembly declared June 3 as international world bicycle day for a reason. In this article, I explore what is ecobike, accessories, eco friendly cycling and new tech trends in the cycling industry.
Do you have strong base?
Each of us has some feelings attached to cycling, for me, it is memories connected to my early childhood, the feeling of achievement when the support wheels were taken off and the feeling of freedom while driving with friends. I love cycling. Nowadays, I regularly use the bike to commute to work and celebrate each bicycle road that municipality opens to encourage cycling in the city. Although riding a bike is good for the environment in almost any aspect, one must be careful when approaching decision of purchase.
Ecobike is eco-friendly
Which bikes are most friendly for the environment? Should one look into the production process and materials used, the durability of the bike, or maybe the possibility to recycle it? I suggest that used bikes are the most eco-friendly. Wikipedia states there are 2 billion bicycles around the world and annual production rate of new bikes exceeds 100 million. The durability of bikes well exceeds the tech progress and new offers in the market. I bet there is a good bike waiting for you.
One more reason to acquire used bike is the price. The price of the new bike varies from 50 to 10 000 USD depending on the level of customization. Newly purchased bike loses its value as much as 25% immediately after driving out of the store and depreciates up to 50% annually depending on the intensity of use. It does make economic sense to look for a bike in the craigslist.
There are 3 categories of bikes in the secondary market:
Used bikes are almost as good as new. The owner bought a bike, used it for a few times and then left it in the garage or another safe place to collect the dust. There is a term for these bikes – Ridden Once; Put Away (ROPW). These bikes have no obvious signs of wear and tear and bike with the initial store value of 600$ could easily (with little negotiation) find new owners for 200$.
Refurbished bikes are those that have undergone more or less extensive repair. It takes once a year to maintain the bike in good riding condition as well as after 7-10 years the revamp process might be necessary.
Scrapped bikes are clearly out of riding condition where revamp process has been delayed for too long. In such cases, the bike is mostly used for spare parts or recycled altogether.
Steel or wood
I will spare the in-depth discussion about materials used in bike production such as aluminum, titanium, carbon, steel, and wood (bamboo) and state that steel is one of the most durable materials for bikes, carbon is high tech, and wood is most eco. Steel bikes are a bit heavier than other metal materials, but the fact that steel production releases only one-third of CO2 than for other metals is deciding point for me.
Green choice for accessories
Bike brands are operating in the highly competitive the market, it is hard to come up with new “wow” ideas to improve the experience of riding a bike. Most of the marketing is focused on shiny objects or additional accessories that do not improve much of the basic functionality: brakes for safety, gear count and switch cables for ease of pedaling, chain quality and tires. Focus on functionality parts and it will save you a few bucks.
Accessories are an important part of cycling, that enhances safety and comfort on the road. To assess the need for accessories one should know what the bike is for. There are three types of bikes: for exercising, for transportation and leisure. For each of these types, the basic gear functionality will differ, however, the most important accessories will remain the same. Here is the list of my choices for the best quality eco-friendly accessories market provides.
Lock – Abus Granit Extreme the less colorful the locker the better. We did have a bad experience with a pink locker.
Luggage – Vaude cyclist pack
Mudguards and fenders – Portland Design metal fenders go for metal ones.
Front and rear lights – Cycle torch Shark 500, LED is the way.
Helmet – Thousand eco-friendly and trendy.
Eyewear – Zeal Optics
Eco friendly cycling
OK, we have a bike, we have gear, now let us pedal. Commuting to work is a great way to prepare for the day, numerous studies prove that physical exercise improves mental well-being, lowers the risk of heart diseases, and has a lower risk of injury as low impact exercise.
The responsible cyclist has to be aware that he/she is responsible for safe commuting and there are zero excuses in breaking traffic rules, jeopardizing others safety with over speeding and not using sound signals if approaching and another aggressive behavior. There must be a reason we drive bike, and it is not the speed. Using a phone while driving a bike is also a dangerous deed.
The better developed is the infrastructure for cyclists in the neighborhood the higher the quality of riding culture. Europe’s cities such as Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Oslo have well-established infrastructures for cycling and lead the way in Copenhagenize index. The most cyclist-friendly US cities are Seattle, San-Francisco, Fort Collins, Minneapolis, Portland, and Chicago. Some might argue that cities are not safe and nature is the place where spend the moments on the bike.
If you are leisure cyclist and want to make your cycling more sustainable, choosing the trails closer to your home is the thing to consider. Be also aware that fuel consumption increases by up to 20 % while driving with the fixed bike on the car. The back of the car is a better solution.
Technological progress is unavoidable
Regardless of where you like to ride or what your environmental awareness is the technology is progressing. Here are the top 5 tech developments that improve and transform cycling, bringing even greater masses of people to this activity.
Bike sharing, there is no way you can miss a bike-share these days, it is in every major city in the world. Tourists around the world are using bicycles to see the places they are visiting.
Connected transport systems in the cities where bikes must be part of. In designing the smart cities and future smart transportation driverless cars will have to deal with cyclists.
Virtual cycling solutions like Zwift are developing fast. It might partially solve the problem for trail-syclists, but how do you simulate the feel of the breeze on your face?
e-bike systems, like Bosch and many others. The issue with the environment here is lithium and cobalt metals in the batteries. These metals are finite resources and extracting them from the earth is expensive, the charge length is increasing but there are no clear systems to recycle batteries yet. By the year 2025 11 million tons of lithium-ion batteries will be in the market. Science has yet to find a good answer to this problem.
Bike tracking systems, like Spybike. Even the best lockers in the world have weaknesses. GPS tracking can help authorities to find the bike.
To sum things up I hope we are aware now that cycling is good for the environment as well as for the health. That second-hand bikes might be as good as new and steel is both – more durable and eco-friendlier material. Put on the eco-friendly glasses when choosing the accessories for your cycling activities and choose the best quality. Check out the cycling infrastructure in your neighborhood and take a ride, but be responsible and kind to fellow residents. Be aware that e-bikes are your second choice due to batteries and check out traditional bike-sharing service once you are in the other city.