“Bike to Work Day”?

Why I wrote this

“Bike to Work Day” is June 24th in Denver and I have been seeing advertisements everywhere.  I do not usually write on environmental issues, although I did touch on the Christian’s role relating to the environment at https://williamjosephsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/correspondence-with-an-athiestskeptic/.  Initially I wrote it for fun to see if I could make sense of an idea that popped into my head after seeing one of the “Bike to Work Day” signs.  However, I also like to challenge the way people think, which is what it does.  Sometimes we need to challenge our own understanding in order to come out with a more well rounded and integrated discernment of the world. Its primary purpose is the stir up thought and NOT necessarily to change people’s minds.  Enjoy…

Biking for the environment?

If someone advocates for the replacing of cars with bikes and argues that the switch is necessary purely for the purposes of protecting the environment and cleaning the air, that seems like an inadequate reason.  Replacing automobiles with bicycles might not have the intended outcome that the environmentalists are aiming for.  Although a cleaner environment is desired by all, the desire alone to have a cleaner environment does not equal a good or sustainable plan.  The argument below, if valid, shows that there is a good reason to think that replacing all cars with bikes could be worse for the environment than we think. It is just a theory and the argument  might have weak premises.  The reader is encouraged to examine the strength of each premise to see if it is more likely than its alternative.  Keep in mind that if this was a thoroughly researched article, I would have referenced studies related to the topic as I’m sure there are many that would disagree with my contention. Again, the purpose of this article is to challenge how we think.

There are much better/stronger reasons that a bicycle advocate can use if they want to convince more people to start riding bikes. The following are some alternative reasons: exercise, healthier community, happier community, less traffic, etc…   Even if the bike advocate convinces people to ride their bikes to and from work every day, people will still want to go places that only an automobile can take them after work and on the weekends, which would burn more fuel.

The argument is as follows: (this is more of an inductive argument in that it presents potential reasons/evidence for the likelihood/probability of my main contention. The conclusion, therefore, does not necessarily follow with certainty but relies on the likelihood/probability of the evidence presented)

  1. If everyone cycled everywhere, populations of people (specifically in large cities) would burn more calories collectively than they do currently.
  2. Since energy would be needed to cycle every day, human populations would be forced to consume more calories collectively
  3. Current levels of caloric consumption for city populations is already massive. And with the suggested influx energy-expending activities (cycling), city populations would need even MORE food freighted in on trains and large trucks in order to sustain the population.
  4. Adding more Trains and large trucks would require more fuel be burnt and more greenhouse gasses to be put in the air. (cleaning the air is presumably the reason that some advocate for more bike riding and less car driving)
  5. Therefore, replacing cars with bikes is NOT necessarily more sustainable for the environment and should not be used by bicycle advocates as a reason to ride bikes more.



2 thoughts on ““Bike to Work Day”?

  1. Every day is bike to work day for me. I do it purely because I enjoy cycling. I think I agree with your conclusion as a whole, but disagree with some of your arguments that support it.

    1. Agreed – populations would burn more calories collectively.
    2. Disagree – Most Americans eat more calories than their bodies need. I think some would have to increase their caloric intake, while others would maintain or maybe even decrease their caloric intake in an effort to become more healthy.
    3. Disagree – for the same reasons as above. One more idea to complicate the issue, if large numbers of commuters rode bicycles to work, “bunches” would inevitably form, allowing for more efficient travel for the group. Pro cyclists use this drafting technique to conserve energy and effort for the end-of-race sprints. Riders can take turns at the front of the bunch, and overall everyone conserves effort and gains speed.
    4. Disagree – I think that the sheer volume of commuter traffic in most large cities is the largest contributor to smog and air pollution. Also, there would be fewer trucks and trains transporting fossil fuels to gas stations and other distributors. That might make up for the increased transportation of food that may result from more exercise.
    5. Disagree – I don’t think that environmental reasons completely justify lobbying for more commuter cyclists, but I do agree that biking to work would most likely improve city air quality.

    Here are the reasons I bike to work:
    1. I enjoy it.
    2. It is good exercise.
    3. No sitting in traffic, and the routes are often scenic.
    4. It costs less than driving (bike maintenance is cheaper than car maintenance, no gas, no parking)
    5. It happens to be good for the environment.
    6. Sometimes, it’s even faster than driving, depending on where I’m going and what traffic is like.

    Just my opinions, hope you enjoyed them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m happy that you do it purely for the joy of cycling! I think that my post is directed mostly at over-zealous activist environmentalists who think that the world would be a better place if cars were gone. On the topic of Carbon emissions check out this video: http://www.prageruniversity.com/Environmental-Science/The-Truth-about-CO2.html#.Ve-MFkX1gxU

      You disagree with 2. that caloric intake would not necessarily have to increase. Again, i dont have any data on this so your bet is as good as mine. I just know that most extremely well fit athletes that I am aware of eat a ton! It is a question of metabolism and i am not sure if metabolism is fixed or if it would increase the more fit one becomes. It is NOT always healthy to decrease caloric intake especially if one is burning so much. Eventually they will get to a point where they have to replace their burnt calories in order to sustain long rigorous cycles. (Again, this is all hypothetical assuming that everyone still participated in their regular routes to work, some which would take hours to get there. Most likely if we bicycled everywhere people would not be able to go places that they do now)

      I love your third point about the drafting! That is funny.

      On the fourth point, I think it is worth noting that if there were no combustion engines then the population would never get to this point in quantity or quality of life.

      I enjoy your input! and think you bike for the right reasons!

      Thanks Dave


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