Based on the trailer alone, I am not rushing out to see the new documentary Bikes vs. Cars. It seems to me we have already been through most of these arguments, especially from advocates. I guess it might be new for a Swedish director. The “international flair” might be new. But otherwise, I hope documentaries like this dig a bit deeper. Maybe it does.
Cyclists recently came out in hoards to repel the comments from the Washington State politician who claimed, “Since CO2 is deemed to be a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride.” Both the Seattle times and Velonews picked it up. And, the politician has since apologized.
It reminds me of the GM ad telling college students to stop pedaling and to start driving–an ad that was met with so much opposition that it was pulled by GM back in the fall of 2011.
** And just fyi, here are two “journalistic reporting stats” that appeared in the Seattle Times report: (1) On average, cars emit about three-quarters of a pound of carbon dioxide per mile, while bicycling releases just over 1 ounce per mile, including manufacturing, according to analysis by the European Cyclists Federation. and (2) food calories burned by a rider may well be equivalent to 650 miles per gallon, figures Todd Litman, of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute.
The Atlantic Cities has a diddy exposing some of the pollution ill-effects of cycling. But, the larger question is still left open. Even considering the air pollution burden from cycling–and perhaps even the safety risks owing to crashes–is it healthy? We need to look at the larger context. The prevailing evidence, I would argue, suggests that cycling is healthy–overall–because of the physical activity benefits.
I received the following email inquiry this morning:
Here is a response, fresh off the press from the book recently edited by John Parkin of the UK:
Kevin J. Krizek (2012). Cycling, Urban Form and Cities: What Do We Know and How Should We Respond? Cycling and Sustainability; Transport and Sustainability, Volume 1. John Parkin, editor. Chapter 5; 111-130. Emerald Group Publishing, UK.
…from page 121
“Some recent research on cycling aims to better understand unintended consequences linked with increased exposure to air pollution (Panis, 2011; Zuurbier et al., 2010). Despite the many virtues of cities for cycling, including relatively high land use densities, a drawback to cycle use is related to air quality and this becomes more important when the activity in question requires significant amounts of oxygen intake. Air pollution can affect the respiratory system because of the deep draw down of air into the lungs and may even lead to heart rate variability (Weichenthal et al., 2011). Of particular concern are ultrafine particulates. Hazards from air pollution are extremely localized and require close proximity (a very few metres), which is just the position of cycle traffic in relation to localized air pollution problems caused by motor traffic. Various treatments have been proposed such as separating cycle traffic from motor traffic by more than the requisite distance, allowing and encouraging bicycles to wait for a traffic signal green light in front of the queue of motor traffic (in so-called bicycle boxes or behind so-called advanced stop lines, which also then have the advantage that they allow cycle traffic a head start before motor traffic accelerates from a stop), or, through appropriate area wide traffic management to create a tiered system of routes with cycle traffic and motor traffic encouraged to use adjacent parallel routes. Overall, however, the evidence suggests that there are potential consequences to cycling in urban areas dominated by motor traffic that need to be addressed in order to avert the potential for cycling in cities being increasingly associated with health risks (Zuurbier et al., 2010).”