Bikes May Not Be As Great For The Environment as You Think They Are

Luise-Emerson Terrel, Staff Writer

Recently, biking has experienced a spike in popularity as an alternate form of transportation. Many bike for fun, exercise, or to travel from home to work. But is this increase in biking really a good thing? The answer may surprise you.

According to the Queensland Government in Australia, the environmental benefits of riding bikes include: “Bicycle riding uses minimal fossil fuels and is a pollution-free mode of transport; Bikes reduce the need to build, service and dispose of cars; and Bicycle riding conserves roadway and residential space, thereby providing opportunities for less concrete and more plant life in urban areas.”

However, while it is clear that bikes have positives, they also endanger the environment in ways that people don’t often think about.

For instance, the point that the Queensland government makes on bikes reducing the need to build cars ignores the fact that you obviously need to build bikes. According to, a bike review website, the frames of the bikes that most cyclists prefer or common bikes are made out of are aluminum, carbon fiber, steel, and titanium and the tires of bicycles are made out of rubber. Each of these materials becomes part of the manufacturing process, which adds to global pollution. The process of manufacturing a tire starts with extracting crude oil or the bark from a tree based in the Amazon Rainforest, roasting it, mixing the material together, and then heating it again. All of this requires a significant amount of energy and, when mixed with the impact of deforestation in the case of the trees, destruction of the environment.

Moving on to the frames of bikes, all of the necessary materials come from a process called “Open Pit Mining” which is defined by a multinational mining company, AngloAmerican plc, as a “surface mining technique that extracts minerals from an open pit in the ground”. The effects from this, according to, an environmental advocacy website, include soil erosion and pollution, water contamination, species extinctions, sinkhole formations, air affected by toxicity from pit mining, and deforestation and vegetation loss, not only that they state open pit mining exposes 8 to 10 times more waste materials to the environment than underground mining so the process that makes bikes just like cars harms the environment.

When people say riding bicycles reduces the use of fossil fuels and reduces pollution it is indeed true. But, that’s referring to bikes only, and bikes sometimes share the road with gas-powered vehicles such as cars, trucks, and buses. In a video by DRIVETRIBE, an automotive enthusiast organization, one of the co-founders, Jeremy Clarkson, a former co-host of the show Top Gear and a current host of the show The Grand Tour (both automotive talk shows) talks about this topic. Clarkson, who is also a reporter for the British newspaper The Sun, says mid-video “I was just coming just now into London on the A40 where they’ve taken one of the lanes away to make a cycle lane; massive traffic jam resulting from it.” What he is basically saying here is that now that one of the lanes has become a cycle lane has resulted in a traffic jam.

A study by researchers Kai Zhang and Stuart Batterman on the website of the National Library of Medicine, a United States Government related organization and the largest medical library in the world, states “Traffic congestion increases vehicle emissions and degrades ambient air quality, and recent studies have shown excess morbidity and mortality for drivers, commuters and individuals living near major roadways.” So, ironically, bikes cause more traffic instead of reducing traffic as they have been said to do which in turn causes pollution.

Another way that bikes cause damage to the environment is through the public’s perception of bicycles. As you can infer from its name, mountain biking is a different way to bike and it involves biking offroad, usually over rough terrain. If you’ve visited a park before you’ve probably seen a couple of trails with beautiful scenery, which have been specially paved out or modified for hikers to walk on or mountain bikers to ride on. Apparently, according to an Environmental Study for the town of Anacortes, Washington by Jeffery Wimpey and Jeff Marion these trails can destroy vegetation, Wimpey and Marion report, “On formal trails, most vegetation is typically removed by construction.” They also state that water quality and wildlife also are impacted by trails since they can alter water behavior patterns and wildlife activities.

Not only are rural forests affected by public perception of bicycles but cities too. At the beginning of the DRIVETRIBE video, Clarkson states, “So this is Holland Park in London, one of the most beautiful streets in London because of all the trees……..that line it. And these are trees that the Mayor of London wants to pull down ummmm……to make way for a cycle lane.” Clarkson goes on to talk about how parks like this and trees, which are good for the environment, are getting taken down for a cycle lane. Additionally, he notes “some left-wing think tank that advises Corbyn [Jeremy Corbyn, a British politician] has come up with a really good idea which is to ban all private cars from London in eleven years time.”

Clarkson’s experiences in London are strong evidence of the fact that the public perception of bikes causes harm to the environment because this causes unnecessary waste of materials, like in this instance unnecessarily building another bike lane when you can just reuse a car lane in eleven years since private vehicles are getting banned.

I am not trying to say that you should stop biking or it’s going to end the world or anything. In fact, the reasons listed at the beginning of this article are still true but there are some things that appear unnoticed on bikes. Also, it’s not just vehicles that are a leading cause of pollution, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences states factories and power plants are leading causes of pollution along with cars. So bikes don’t seem as great for the environment as you think it is, and not only bikes will change the state of our world, and simply we have to do more for the environment to save it as there are many more factors than just cars, trucks, buses, and anything that’s gas or fuel related.