Biking is fun, environmentally friendly, and healthy. It can cut transportation costs and save vehicle-related carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere.
Switching to cycling can have a big impact on the environment.
Statistic in point: If five percent of New Yorkers switched to biking to work, they could save 150 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year—the equivalent of planting a forest 1.3 times the size of Manhattan, according to Transportation Alternatives.
But for cycling to penetrate the mainstream, we need smart innovations in bicycle production and distribution, and cities to make biking save and convenient for residents.
Here are five of the best recent innovations in bike technology.
(Photo: Gio Barto/Getty Images)
Biking can be a healthy and convenient alternative to spending hours in traffic, particularly in developing cities with congested streets and poor public transportation infrastructure. But the high price of bicycles has made purchasing them a major barrier in much of the world.
Now, an inventor has come up with a possible solution. Izhar Gafni has built the first bicycle made almost entirely of cardboard. When Gafni begins mass production, his bikes should cost no more than $20. They can last as long as ten years. Gafni told Reuters that it took him four years to figure out how to “cancel out the corrugated cardboard’s weak structural points.” Now he requires no metal parts at all to make his cardboard cycles strong and durable.
(Photo: Baz Ratner/Reuters)
In four short years, 30 cities have launched bike share programs, from the major thruways of Washington, D.C. and Boston, to smaller cities like Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Spartanburg, South Carolina. Bike share systems allow people to rent bikes for short-term commutes between bike docks located across the city. They have been proven to save users money, and radically reduce the amount of car trips made in a year. Bike share programs also reduce carbon emissions from vehicle transportation. A report from the first year of the Capital Bike Share program in Washington, D.C. found that users saved an average of $819 each, and collectively, Capital Bike Share members saved 1,632 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, according to research by the Sierra Club.
Riding in bike lanes reduces your chances of injury by 50 percent, compared to riding on similar streets that don’t have bike lanes, according to a new study. That number jumps to 90 percent when cyclists ride in protected lanes that are separated from oncoming traffic.
But most cities don’t have bike lanes on every street, let alone protected lanes.
LightLane is trying to change that. The company is creating a personal bike lane that cyclists take with them wherever they pedal. Their product is a light that projects two laser beams in front of and behind a cyclist, encouraging motorists to give the biker a wide berth. Two downsides: the light only works at night, and it’s still a prototype at this point.
Some research has shown that forcing people to wear helmets when they cycle actually discourages them from biking. Studies have found that if cities want bike share programs to become popular among residents, they have to forego mandatory helmet laws. Still, bicycling deaths and injuries are nothing to ignore: In 2010, there were 618 deaths while biking, and 52,000 injuries sustained from collisions with motor vehicles.
What if your helmet were easier to carry with you wherever you went? What if it wasn’t bulky and cantaloupe-sized, but a sleek, fitted, folding hat? Carrera has developed a foldable helmet that stretches to fit your head perfectly. When you get off your bike, you can tuck it into your backpack or purse, compressing it for storage.
Hundreds of bike co-ops have sprung up across the nation to educate communities about safe cycling, and provide free or affordable repairs for cycling enthusiasts and novices alike. Co-ops often redistribute bikes to people who can’t afford new cycles, refurbish old bikes for use, and recycle used bike parts to cut the cost of bicycle maintenance. Many operate as nonprofits or are entirely volunteer-run. Check out this map of bike co-ops and community bike stores to find one near you.
(Photo: Faster Panda Kill Kill/Creative Commons via Flickr)
Alison Fairbrother is the director of the nonpartisan Public Trust Project, which investigates and reports on misrepresentations of science by corporations and government. She has written for the Washington Monthly, the Washington Spectator, Grist, and Politics Daily, among others. Alison is based in Washington DC. @adfairbrother | TakePart.com