Biking can save your butt – Your health, planet and budget

By | December 19, 2012 | Health & Wellness

Biking can save your butt – Your health, planet and budget

As someone who loves the outdoors and worked as an environmental policy analyst and land use planner, I have great admiration for communities who adopt strong policies and laws in order to be bike-friendly communities. Not only do these communities promote healthy activities for their citizens, but they contribute to the collective effort to make our planet a better, greener place.

Many of the communities who progressively place health, open space preservation, natural resource management and recreational amenities at the top of their community’s priorities are the some of the same communities who are voted as the top places to live in magazines such as Outside, Money, and Businessweek. Such amenities make these places attractive to businesses looking to relocate their company headquarters and workforce. A few examples of these bike-friendly communities include Portland, OR; Boulder, CO; Tucson, AZ; New York City, and Minneapolis, MN.

As you look at your health goals for the New Year, we invite you to consider riding your bike more. Biking can save your butt – your health, planet, and budget. As a Mom, I can’t take a bike to Costco and stock up on my staples for the month with two kids in tow. It’s not so much the distance that’s the issue, but rather the amount of stuff that I end up taking home. However, my kids and I can ride our bikes to the neighborhood park, ice cream shop, or grocery store down the street when all I need are a few fresh veggies and some fruit.

The following infographic shows how bikes are the two-wheeled key to better health and a better world. If we all make a small effort, our combined efforts can make a huge difference.

Infographic source:

How bikes can save us

America is a car country. We drive everywhere, and we all pay the price. Transportation alone accounts for 20% of an American family’s budget, the second biggest cost after housing. A sedentary lifestyle doesn’t just kill our pockets, either – it kills us. After tobacco, inactivity-related diseases are the number one killer in the US. But research has proven that swapping out driving in favor of biking can have wondrous results. Following Europe’s lead, a few American cities are already testing this out.

  • 90% Americans drive to work, 0.6% ride their bikes – despite the fact that 70% of Americans’ car trips are shorter than two miles
  • 1 in 2 Americans breathe highly polluted air every day
  • 15% of all asthma cases are linked to living close to major roads
  • 50-90% emissions are caused by automobiles
  • 20 bikes can be parked in the same space as 1 car
  • An MIT study in Lyon, France found that bikes are 50% faster than cars during rush hour
  • Adding 30 minutes of daily cycling saves each of us $544 in medical costs annually

Bikes provide an answer

  • The average person will lose 13 pounds in their first year of riding to work
  • A study of 11 Midwestern cities found that we could save lives and dollars if citizens ran ½ their errands by bike rather than by car for 4 months out of the year
  • 1100 deaths would be prevented annually
  • $3.8 billion saved from better fitness and fewer car accidents
  • $3.5 billion saved from increased air quality

The European way

  • Europe often incentivizes biking and walking by making driving inconvenient
  • In the US, gas costs $3.50/gallon (at the time this infographic was created)
  • In Europe, gas costs $8.00/gallon (at the time this infographic was created)
  • Zurich speed limits in city centers are 12-18 MPH

The percentage of obese population vs. trips made by bike:

In the US          –>     31% vs. 1%
In Germany    –>     13% vs. 9%
In Holland       –>     10% vs. 25%

Portland: A model for the US

  • Portland leads the US in ridership with nearly 6% commuting by bike
  • Portland’s huge investment in biking will save it $400 million in health care by 2040

Ever growing

Across 55 major US cities, commuting by bike rose 70% between 2000 and 2009.

How bike-friendly is your community? Do you use any other forms of transportation other than driving your own vehicle?

Spread the word!

Charmin Calamaris

Charmin is a wife, mom of two boys and creator of the Momiverse. The Momiverse is an online magazine for busy moms (is there any other kind?) dedicated to helping moms make time – and take time – for themselves. She traded in her career in land use planning and environmental policy to become Chief Executive Navigator of the Momiverse. You can connect with Charmin in her "online office" on Twitter or Facebook.

tell us what you think


berrymorin October 20, 2013 at 9:53 am

I really love your article because we’ve been a car-free family since 2010.  Walking, biking and public transit.

themomiverse October 25, 2013 at 11:22 am

berrymorin That’s amazing! I’m assuming you live in a city with great public transit (and not the suburbs)?

berrymorin October 25, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Yes, we live in a city outside of Vegas. Many times, taking the bus is more convenient than driving a car, especially on The Strip.