Monday, December 6, 2010

Is Biking Fiscally Conservative?

Bicycle commuters pedal past stalled traffic in Portland, Oregon. Photo: (flickr)

Air pollution from vehicles using fossil fuels is creating health issues in cities across the globe. In addition air pollution is negatively impacting some city, state and national fiscal budgets. Increased vehicle congestion and rapidly growing metropolises are putting immense pressure on both the natural and human environment. Biking could be the healthiest, cheapest, and maybe even the fastest form of transportation that cities across the globe are lacking in order to solve some major environmental, health and economic issues.

Recently, dangerous pollution levels in Iran's capital city of Tehran have forced officials to shut down government offices and schools for a two-day public holiday, according to an article from Yahoo. Not only does the pollution create serious health risks, it also costs the city some major green. Yahoo cites that it costs about $130 million each day the city is shut down. A good amount of the pollution comes from vehicles on congested roads and a rapid growing metropolis of over 12 million people, according to Yahoo. On top of the growing population and congestion, similar to Los Angeles and Mexico city, Tehran is unfortunately surrounded by mountains. "The geographical location of Tehran, wedged between mountains, also means if there is no wind or rain the dirty air gets trapped," says an article from the BBC.

So what are these cities to do? Start Biking! Since you were able to turn on your computer and access the internet, i'm going to assume that you are aware that exercise is healthy for the human body. Hence, I will spare you the healthy argument for riding a bike.

Biking is cheaper. When you start biking, you stop spending money on petroleum, maintenance, insurance, etc. With the money you save, you can buy (usually more expensive) healthier food. You can save by not paying for high health insurance premiums, hospital bills and gym memberships, the list goes on.

In turn, this saves governments money on road repairs, highly technological and very expensive traffic control systems, and oh yeah, those pesky little pollution holidays that are costing some places, big bucks. In terms of national fiscal burdens, less reliance on fossil fuels (oil) for vehicles could reduce the need for military occupation in the middle east to protect oil reserves. Therefore, maybe reducing the US Department of Defense Budget, which is set to cost tax payers $708.3 billion in 2011, according to

Biking may even be faster than driving in some cities. In 2005, the city of Leon, France implemented a bike sharing system that now has 4,000 bikes at almost 350 stations, according to an article from Each bike is equipped with a computer that allows researchers to easily track trip lengths and speeds. The researchers looked at 11.6 million trips from May 2005 to December 2007, says

"Over an average trip, cyclists travel 2.49 km in 14.7 minutes so their average speed is about 10 km/h. That compares well with the average car speed in inner cities across Europe. During the rush hour, however, the average speed rises to almost 15 km/h, a speed which outstrips the average car speed. And that's not including the time it takes to find a place to park...."

So if biking is healthier, cheaper and even faster than cars, in cities, why aren't more people choosing their LeMonds, rather than their Land Rovers?

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