Need to pick up a few items at the grocery store? Leave your car at home and opt for your bicycle instead. That one small swap could have a huge impact on the environment, says new research.
Every time someone substitutes a short car trip, less than five miles, with a bike commute, that person plays an important role in improving the air quality of that city, according to a recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
The study surveyed 31.3 million people in the 11 largest Midwestern cities, including Chicago, Detroit and Cincinnati, and found that traveling via bike instead of car for short-distance trips could significantly reduce the amount of fine particulate matter and other pollutants in the air caused by car exhaust. Particulate matter can lodge deep into lungs and cause life-threatening heart and breathing problems. Researchers found that the healthy alternative could save a whopping $8 billion per year from avoided mortality and reduced health care costs. Overall, combined health benefits of improved air quality and physical fitness would prevent 1,295 deaths every year.
Read more about local efforts to promote urban bike commuting, and check out APHA’s fact sheet on the health benefits of biking and walking.