As modes of transport go, they don’t come much ‘greener’ than cycling. The environmental benefits of cycling outweigh pretty much any disadvantage you could even try to think of.
Whether you cycle to work, school, the shops, or simply to keep fit – every turn of the pedal helps protect our planet in one way or another.
Or, maybe you don’t currently cycle but are looking for a way of reducing your carbon footprint and living a more eco-friendly lifestyle – you’re in the right place, and cycling is a great place to start.
While many of the benefits seem obvious, others are less so. Read on to learn about 5 of the biggest environmental benefits of cycling.
Cycling reduces air pollution
If you’re reading this blog, we’ll assume you’re already pretty clued up on air pollution and are conscious of your efforts to reduce your own output.
But – in a nutshell, air pollution is the small particles, chemicals and gases released into the air, often from things like the burning of fossil fuels, transportation, and wildfires.
Driving motorised vehicles, like cars, is one of the biggest contributors to air pollution. Car fuels, in particular, include gases like carbon dioxide (CO₂) and nitrogen dioxide, which are seriously harmful to the environment when released in large volumes.
On the other hand, cycling releases very little CO₂ into the air. So, straight away, it has an enormous environmental advantage. Shorter journeys, in particular, are where you’re most likely to notice the biggest environmental benefits of cycling.
According to environmental organisation Hubbub, 50% of the journeys we take each day are less than two miles – meaning lots of unnecessary, excess pollution is sent into the air for journeys which could, in theory, be done on foot (or pedal!)
Hubbub also states that in the UK alone, more than half (55%) of transport emissions come from cars, which has a hugely negative impact on our air quality.
Switching short car trips for a cycle instead has huge environmental benefits, and what’s more – it’ll keep you physically fit, too.
Cycling reduces noise pollution
Pollution doesn’t just come in invisible gas form – there’s also noise pollution to be mindful of too.
Noise pollution is usually classed as any unwanted or disturbing sounds that affect humans and animals’ health and wellbeing in that particular area.
This type of pollution also impacts the health and wellbeing of wildlife. Studies have shown that sudden, loud noises can cause small insects like caterpillars’ hearts to beat faster and bluebirds, for example, to have fewer offspring.
Animals use natural sound for all sorts of reasons, such as navigation, finding food, attracting mates and avoiding predators. If we, as humans, disrupt these sounds with noise pollution, it makes it difficult for animals to survive.
Animals have to alter their behaviour and may even have to change locations to avoid noise, which has a detrimental knock-on effect on our entire environment. For example, if a bird leaves its forest and others follow, that forest may decline over time. This could then lead to that forest being cleared. This is called deforestation – we’ll come onto that a bit later.
However, if there’s less noise from vehicles, traffic queues and the like, animals are more likely to stay and allow surrounding nature to thrive.
So, by leaving the car at home and choosing to cycle instead, you’re not just helping to save the planet – but animals, too.
Cycling boosts biodiversity and protects green spaces
By its simplest definition, biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth. But, more specifically, biodiversity is the number and types of plants and animals existing in a particular area or space. It also takes into account how life and species’ on Earth interact with one and other.
Biodiversity is important for several reasons. Firstly, a healthy ecosystem means good quality and variety when it comes to things like food, water and air.
However, as the temperature of the Earth gets warmer and the weather gets more unpredictable (otherwise known as climate change), fewer plant and animal species can survive.
Improving biodiversity is another important environmental benefit of cycling. As cycling generates less noise and air pollution and emits fewer gases that contribute to global warming, it also protects green spaces and the wildlife that exists within them.
Over time, switching your car journeys (again, particularly the shorter journeys) for cycling reduces the need for surfaces to be paved for vehicles. This even includes areas you might not have otherwise considered – like your front drive, for example.
Fewer paved surfaces mean more green spaces by default. So, by cycling, you’re doing your bit to boost biodiversity and protect that precious, natural greenery.
Cycling reduces the need for deforestation
Heavily linked to the earlier notion of protecting green spaces, the issue of deforestation is one of the largest, ongoing issues regarding land use – not just here in the UK but globally, too.
By definition, deforestation is the action of clearing a wide area of trees or forest. These spaces are often then industrialised, which, for reasons discussed previously, can have devastating impacts on the environment.
For a start, the very building and construction of an industrial site involves vehicle transportation and the use of non-eco materials. Then, once in operation, sites often burn fuel and emit all sorts of harmful substances into the atmosphere. Not to mention the additional noise and air pollution from importing and exporting goods.
However, if more people chose to cycle instead of drive, there’d be a bigger case for keeping these green, cycle-friendly spaces alive. Long term, there’d also be less of a need for metal production to help build cars.
The metals used in car production often need to be mined from the Earth – a process that often requires deforestation to work.
Can you see how it’s all linked?
Cycling helps to reduce global warming
Cycling has been long-established as part of the solution for a low-carbon, greener future for the planet. And if you weren’t quite sure why before, you certainly are now after reading this blog.
There’s little doubt among scientists and environmental experts that human activity contributes massively to global warming. But the good thing is that, as humans, we also have the power to enact positive change.
According to data from Cycling UK, just 6% of urban passenger miles are from cycling. However, it’s estimated that increasing this to 11% by 2030 and 14% by 2050 could cut CO₂ emissions from passenger transport by 7% and 11%, respectively.
In fact, research also suggests that if people in England cycled as much as people in the Netherlands, there’d be around two million fewer car commuters on the road. In theory, this would reduce the UK’s CO₂ output by an average of more than 1,500 tonnes a year.
So, what are you waiting for?
As we’ve discussed, cycling comes with a heap of environmental benefits. But before you head out on a ride, you also need to make sure you have the right bike insurance.
Specialist bike insurance protects you from injury or claims that might be made against you and your bike in the event of theft, damages, or if it’s stolen (providing you report it to the police within 24 hours).
At Cycleplan, we provide equipment cover for a range of bikes and accessories up to the total value of £30,000. We also offer personal accident cover and public liability, among other additional policies.