Waterloo, Wisconsin – May 6, 2021 –Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have teamed up with Trek Bicycle on a new research endeavor that shows the potential health and environmental benefits of cycling in the United States. In many cities, the built environment is designed exclusively with personal car travel in mind over more physically active forms of transportation such as bicycling and walking. Partially funded by Trek, the research conducted by the Health Oriented Transportation Initiative (HOT) at the UW-Madison Global Health Institute demonstrates cycling, over routine driving, is one of the most effective ways to improve human health and combat climate change.
HOT examined varying levels of cycling and how that activity at scale might potentially mitigate deaths caused by chronic disease, such as diabetes. Findings showed that in US metropolitan areas, less than one percent of trips are taken by bicycle—presenting a significant societal opportunity if there were to be a shift in behavior. In cities outside of the US with well-established cycling traditions, such as Amsterdam, this percentage can reach 40 percent. If metro areas of the US were to achieve the Amsterdam level of 40 percent, approximately 70,000 deaths due to chronic diseases related to sedentary lifestyle could be averted each year. The findings also demonstrate approximately 20,000 deaths due to chronic disease in the US could be averted if metropolitan areas increased their cycling percentage by an additional five percent more than the current national average.
“One of the best ways to improve our nation’s health, while at the same time lessening our contribution to climate change, is for more people to leave their car behind and hop on a bike instead—great for personal fitness and for the planet,” said Jonathan Patz, Director of the Global Health Institute and John P. Holton Chair of Health and Environment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Increasing the percentage of cycling means reducing the number of trips made by automobile, which can have further positive environmental health impacts. UW research shows increasing cycling trips to six percent—the current cycling percentage in Madison, Wis., a known bike-friendly city where Trek is based and has invested in bike infrastructure—may prevent around 100 premature deaths per year due to improved air quality from avoided vehicle emissions and provides approximately $1.1 billion each year in global benefits due to climate change mitigation. Transportation is our nation’s largest greenhouse gas emitting sector contributing to the global climate crisis.
“The benefit of being a bike company is that we make a product that can make a positive impact on the world,” said Eric Bjorling, Director of Brand at Trek Bicycle. “Riding a bike is not only fun but has enormous physical health benefits and can offset carbon emissions when you replace a car trip with a bike trip. It’s always been our mission to get more people on bikes, especially since riding is climate action and it’s an easy, low impact way to stay physically active.”