Five Proven Benefits of Biking to Work

Ryan the authorResearch by Aaron
Updated: August 2, 2019

Biking to work is growing in popularity each year in the U.S. As traffic gets worse and cities become more populated, commuters are looking for alternate modes of travel. Cities are now putting a lot more effort behind creating a bike-friendly environment to encourage more people to bike. Commuting by bike reduces carbon emissions, traffic and is much more cost-effective than driving.

Research is also backing up the claim that biking to work is a better means of commuting. According to studies, there are some real advantages to biking to work.

1. Biking is Healthy

Biking to work is an extremely healthy activity and simply switching to commuting by bike can guarantee some physical activity in your daily routine. A 5-mile commute can provide you with 30 minutes of exercise. This activity will elevate your heart rate and can translate to anywhere between 160 calories burned for a small person (100-150 pounds) and 400 calories for a larger rider (around 225 pounds).

Plus, biking to work has been shown to have impressive health benefits that outshine all other means of commuting. Researchers at the University of Glasgow published a study in the British Medical Journal after tracking more than 250,000 people for five years and monitoring their transportation to and from work.

Commuters in the study who cycled to work were found to have a 41% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 45% lower risk of developing cancer. These cyclists showed a 40% lower risk of dying from cancer. All other modes of travel, including a mix of biking and walking, were not shown to have as impressive effects as those who biked to work. The researchers in this study also went to great lengths to control for other variables like sex, details of diet, family history, etc.

The researchers also found that the further these commuters traveled by bike, the less likely they were to be affected by these diseases, which are the two leading causes of death in the US.

2. You Beat the Traffic

Dealing with traffic is one of the worst parts about driving to work. It's frustrating, wastes fuel and causes a lot of wear and tear on your vehicle. Plus it wastes a lot of your time. The average daily American commute is about 35 minutes, or 19 days per year spent in commute traffic.

Biking to work allows you to have a much more pleasant commute, and you're getting exercise while doing it. But biking can't be more time efficient than driving, can it? Research shows in some cities, it's actually faster to bike to work than drive.

Scientific American dug into research and analysis that found that in many congested cities - including Austin, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, New York and Pittsburgh - the busiest corridors had single-digit driving speed averages. Most bike riders travel at an average of 9-10 mph, making biking actually more efficient in this busy city corridors.

If biking is even reasonably similar in commute time to driving, it's got a huge advantage. It's better for your mental and physical health, and that time in commute also doubles up as some exercise for the day.

3. It's Good for the Environment

A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Commuting by bike essentially has zero negative effects on the environment. While automobiles give off emissions that harm the ozone and environment, cycling is a completely green mode of transportation.

A study from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy found that cycling could help cut carbon emissions from transportation by 11 percent. For this reduction to happen, 14 percent of travel in the world's cities would need to happen by bike or e-bike. This is a bike hike for the U.S., where less than 5 percent of trips currently happen by bike.

In areas of the world like Denmark and the Netherlands, biking accounts for more than 25 percent of city trips. These cities have different cultures than the U.S., but even busy Asian countries like Japan and China are taking between 15-20 percent of trips by bike.

Many U.S. cities are actively improving the environment for bikers by adding dedicated lanes and improving safety, which is increasing the number of bike commuters. Since 1990, the number of bike commuters has increased by 64 percent.

4. You Save Money

The average American spends between $1,400 and $2,000 per year on fuel and the average cost of owning a vehicle is nearly $8,500 per year, according to the American Automobile Association. That's a big expense that can be significantly reduced by biking to work. The average American commute is about 35 minutes, and a lot of that travel time is spent in stop-and-go traffic that leads to poor fuel efficiency.

Let's assume you have a 15-mile commute each way to work. If you started biking to and from work each day, you'd save more than $1,000 per year on fuel, assuming city gas mileage of 20 mpg and gas prices of $3 per gallon.

In addition to this direct fuel savings, you'll also save money on wear and tear expenses like brakes, rotors, oil changes and other fixes. Keeping your mileage down also helps retain the value of your car. It's a win-win financial scenario all around.

5. You'll Be Happier

It's not too difficult to imagine why your bike commute will leave you in a better mood than driving would. You're outside moving and getting exercise, don't need to deal with traffic, saving money and helping reduce your impact on the environment.

Studies have found that being outside in nature helps alleviate symptoms of depression. It's also been found that exercise in nature relieves anxiety.

Combine these effects with all of the other benefits listed above, and you're sure to end up happier by bike than by car.