There are 7.5 billion people (and growing) on this planet and each one of them travels. Transportation goes hand in hand with energy and climate issues, and although it seems like every day we hear news about the next big leap in electric vehicles or grand ideas for mass transit like the Tesla Hyperloop, I can’t help but think there’s a transportation solution that’s been staring us in the face for about 200 years: the bicycle.

According to Commuter Driving Statistics data, only 0.38% of US commuters commute by bike, and 37 million Americans have a commute distance of 1 to 5 miles—an easy biking distance. On my own 2-mile bike commute to and from the E Source office, I wonder how many individuals in passing vehicles could replace their car trip with a bike ride. What’s holding them back? Don’t they know the MPG of a Human on a bike is 1,150 miles per gallon?

Did you know a human gets 1,150 mpg on a bicycle?Tweet this!

Despite the advantages of a bike commute, there are barriers to adoption: lack of bike-friendly infrastructure, lack of bike ownership, and realistic biking range. Fortunately, these barriers are slowly being broken down as biking becomes a more popular and accessible transportation solution.

Bike Infrastructure

When you get in a car, you rarely question whether the road can get you to your destination. When you’re on a bike, you want that same confidence.

Riding a bike on a busy, paved road is dangerous, loud, uncomfortable, and not a selling point when you’re asking someone to give up their private, climate-controlled car. I’m lucky to live in a city with an extensive and easy-to-use trail network, but not every city has this advantage.

City planners are realizing the need for biking infrastructure and projects are already under way. The US Bicycle Route System is building 50,000 miles of signed, mapped, and maintained cycling routes, with 12,000 miles in 25 states currently approved. Los Angeles County passed Measure M, approving over $4 billion for biking and walking projects as part of its 40-year transportation project.

Bike-sharing station

width: 147px; height: 208px;

Without well-maintained roads and the interstate system, automobile transportation wouldn’t be where it is today, and bicycle transportation needs those same luxuries.

Bike Sharing

According to the US Bicycling Participation Report, half of adults in the US don’t have access to an operational bicycle at home. On top of that, not everyone has room to safely park a bike at their home or office. Bike-sharing systems help alleviate these pains.

Bike-sharing systems include banks of bicycles located around a city. Riders pay a small fee to check out a bike, ride to their destination, and dock the bike at any bike-sharing station. Riders only pay for the time they’re on the bike, with no additional costs for maintenance or ownership.

E-bikes

Let’s face it, it takes some physical effort to ride a bike. You can toss out all of the benefits of biking if there are lung-busting hills on your commute or if it’s too far to physically ride. Insert the e-bike—a bicycle fitted with an electric motor and battery. E-bikes function as regular bikes but give the rider an electric pedal assist when needed. E-bikes help alleviate some commuting pain points, like coming to work tired and sweaty, having a long commute, or not being able to ride due to a physical disability.

Graphic from the Bike League showing why people use e-bikes. It includes data showing 60% of respondents use e-bikes because they work or live in a hilly area.
The League of American Bicyclists features this graphic in its report Electric Bicycles: Public Perceptions & Policy (PDF).

Transportation will always be a pressing issue, and it will always have an impact on energy use. Bike commuting has the power to be a simple and effective solution. Wondering if a bike commute is possible for you? It might be easier, safer, and more enjoyable than you think. Your city’s website is a great place to start for a map of current bike paths and bike-sharing systems.

Contributing Authors

Associate Analyst, Marketing & Communications

Travis Provin conducts research to help utilities communicate with their business and residential customers. Prior to his role as an associate...