Environmental/Energy Benefits

Motor vehicles create a substantial amount of air pollution. In fact, according to the EPA, transportation is responsible for nearly 80 percent of carbon monoxide and 55 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions in the U.S. Not surprisingly, many metropolitan areas do not meet the air quality standards specified in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. Although individual cars are much cleaner today than they were in earlier years, if total traffic continues to grow, overall air quality will deteriorate. Moreover, every day cars and trucks burn millions of barrels of oil, a non-renewable energy source. Switching motor vehicle trips over to bicycle trips is an easy way to reduce energy needs and pollution emissions from the transportation sector.

Pollution facts

  • Motor vehicle emissions represent 31 percent of total carbon dioxide, 81 percent of carbon monoxide, and 49 percent of nitrogen oxides released in the U.S. (The Green Commuter, A Publication of the Clean Air Council).
  • 60 percent of the pollution created by automobile emissions happens in the first few minutes of operation, before pollution control devices can work effectively. Since "cold starts" create high levels of emissions, shorter car trips are more polluting on a per-mile basis than longer trips (League of American Bicyclists).
  • A short, four-mile round trip by bicycle keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air we breathe (WorldWatch Institute).