Air pollution and its impacts on the environment and human health has long been a hot topic in the ever-important eco-friendly conversation. As we become more aware of our surroundings and how it influences our longevity, mitigating the growing air quality concerns is more important than ever before.
And that’s where e-bikes come in. Electric bikes offer a cleaner alternative to traditional commute transport, giving employees and students alike a safe, speedy, and environmentally friendly travel method. Unlike traditional bicycles, e-bikes let you traverse long distances, keep up with traffic flow, and effortlessly manage hills while lowering emissions and pollution.
They’re an undeniable win-win for people and the planet. But their true benefits are only uncovered upon digging into the details.
Air Quality and Pollution: The Unhealthy Relationship
Typically, not paying attention to the internet’s cries is a good thing — it’s full of keyboard warriors, after all. However, the chronically online population promoting environmentally friendly outlooks should be listened to because the alternative is a decidedly poorly human race and a forever-marred planet.
Both the European Environment Agency and Massachusetts’ Department of Environmental Protection note short- and long-term exposure to pollution-filled air can cause a variety of diseases like stroke, cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, lower respiratory infections, aggravated asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The latter adds those living in areas with toxic pollutants, urban smog, and particle pollution are most at-risk and are likely to experience symptoms, such as:
- Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
- Inflammation, irritation, and infections in the lungs
- Worsening of existing heart and lung issues
- Chest tightness
- Breathing problems
To highlight the major public health risks of air pollution, the World Health Organization (WHO) offered evidence of the links between poor air quality exposure and obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, systemic inflammation, and type 2 diabetes. And with an EEA report estimating that 238,000 premature deaths in 2020 were attributable to particulate matter, the collective “clean the air” surge is unsurprising.
Although, air pollution also hits the environment unknowingly hard, causing issues like ozone depletion, crop, and forest damage, eutrophication (a situation where algae grow excessively in the water, blocking sunlight and consuming too much oxygen for plant/animal life to survive), acid rain, and, of course, climate change.
But Where’s All This Pollution Coming From?
You probably see factories and other industrial plants pumping smoke into the ether as you’re driving along the highway to work. And when you see such operations, what thought comes into your mind? If it’s anything like, “Look at all that pollution,” you aren’t alone.
While you’re correct in believing they’re a main source of pollution (an Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit report proved such facilities make up 23% of global emissions), it’s worth noting that the transport sector is just as responsible. Whether you’re driving to work in your five-door diesel SUV or sitting on a train to see your friend a few miles away, you’re pumping out air pollution more vigorously than you may realize.
The Relationship Between E-Bikes and Boosted Air Quality
The above might’ve been a shock, but you’re well on your way to fixing your previously unknown environmental errors — e-bikes will (eco-consciously) skyrocket you to the dizzying heights of clean air and away from the potentially life-changing devastation of inhaling pollutants.
At first glance, the link between electric bicycles and improved air quality is fairly superficial. But the reality is quite the opposite. From their zero emissions to reduced nitrogen oxides, they’re perhaps the most sustainable transport, long-term transport method available.
E-bikes produce zero tailpipe emissions, contributing to much cleaner air than regular motor vehicles. By choosing to ride an electric bike to work instead of driving, you’ll harness the power of long-lasting lithium-ion batteries and save up to 500 pounds of carbon emissions every single year.
As the United Nations Environment Programme can attest, air pollution has a chokehold on almost every part of the Earth, with just a few remote places mercifully untouched. Those of us living in cities or otherwise built-up areas are breathing in a multitude of pollutants every single day, particularly nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.
Nitrogen oxides are a bunch of chemical compound pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitrogen monoxide. The former is the most harmful, damaging human lungs and hearts while reducing atmospheric visibility in strong concentrations.
Particulate matter, on the other hand, is invisible to the naked eye, remaining noticeable only as smog in heavily polluted areas. These particles travel deep into the bloodstream and lungs, increasing the risk of stroke, cancer, and respiratory diseases.
Sounds scary, right? Thankfully, e-bikes don’t produce these pollutants, so you can rest easy knowing you’re doing your bit.
Benefits of E-Bike Riding on Air Quality and Communities
We’ve already sneaked a few benefits of e-bike riding in, but that’s only just the beginning. Take a look at everything we’ve got to look forward to with the next generation of green transportation:
1. Sustainable Transport Promotion
As world leaders fight to keep up with the Paris Agreement and meet climate goals for the good of the planet, e-bikes are becoming an increasingly attractive option for commuters, recreational riders, and adventurers, promoting the adoption of clean, green transportation that remains quick and reliable.
Standard gas-powered vehicles are huge contributors to air pollution and the ongoing climate change issue. Thus, using e-bikes is a surefire way to reduce reliance on such automobiles and pave the way for others to do the same. After all, people tend to be sheep — and in this case, that’s a great thing.
2. Decreased Traffic Congestion
E-bikes alleviate traffic congestion by keeping the flow moving, leading to fewer idling vehicles and, thus, reducing pollution. And the Georgia Institute of Technology conducted a first-of-its-kind study to prove it, following a spate of e-bike bans across the country in 2019.
According to their results, electric bikes significantly reduce congestion, saving up to $536 million, people’s commute time, and pollution around the world. The study also discovered that increased congestion resulting from the e-bike bans increased Atlanta’s average commuting time by 11%.
Couple that with the success seen by cities in the Netherlands (where there are more bicycles than citizens), and there’s a massive case for the widespread use of e-bikes.
3. Cleaner Urban Areas
Move from a built-up area into the countryside and you’ll notice that breathing is easier. Now, imagine if you could get that easy breathing feeling in an urban space. That’s exactly what electric bikes help to achieve.
Since the two-wheeled contraptions don’t emit harmful pollutants into the atmosphere, they clean the air and improve its quality for increased human and environmental health.
Currently, too many city dwellers hop in the car to take short- or medium-length trips to the store, see their family, or go to work, kicking out a bunch of pollution in the process. If said people were to choose e-bikes, however, this would stop, creating a cleaner environment for everybody.
4. Boosted Public Health
Last but certainly not least, the cleaner air afforded by e-bikes offers a plethora of critical health benefits, such as a reduced risk of respiratory issues, heart diseases, cancers, and stroke.
Beyond that, e-bikes provide increased opportunities for physical activity, further decreasing the chances of the aforementioned issues, diabetes, and obesity. They’re a simple way to acquire your daily exercise while only changing your commute. What’s not to love?
Let’s Start the E-Bike Boom
At the time of writing (6 December 2023), there are already countless cities benefitting from the adoption of e-bikes. However, the true electric bike boom is yet to happen. Looking toward the infrastructure and campaigns conducted by said cities is the perfect place to begin.
For instance, the Vélib; Métropole bike-sharing system in Paris added e-bikes to their offerings, giving people an effortless way to roam the city. Since the addition, Parisians have adored them, encouraging them to add more than 15,000 electric bikes to their fleet.
Similarly, the Santander Cycles bike-sharing program in London grabbed the e-bike bull by its horns, too. The city has seen reduced pollution and congestion while providing another fun way for tourists to traverse the streets.
As for the infrastructure, the Netherlands is the best location to get inspired.
In cities like Amsterdam, almost 70% of trips are made cycling — a feat made possible by the area’s extensive infrastructure like:
- Well-maintained, dedicated bike lanes.
- Intersections with separate bike lanes.
- Bicycle parking facilities.
- Bike-friendly traffic signals.
- Bike-sharing programs.
With the right educational campaigns, sharing programs, and infrastructure, the world will become a haven for e-bikes and their pollution-reducing benefits.
E-Bikes: The Ticket to Cleaner Air, Healthier Communities, and Eco-Friendly Living
Thanks to their lithium-ion batteries, e-bikes generate zero emissions and help clean the planet’s air cleaner. And with cleaner air comes healthier communities that aren’t as susceptible to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. E-bikes put us a few steps further to waving goodbye to the devastating number of pollutant-caused deaths every year.
European Environment: https://www.eea.europa.eu/en/topics/in-depth/air-pollution/eow-it-affects-our-health
European Environment: https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/air-quality-in-europe-2021/health-impacts-of-air-pollution
Small Town Bike Co: https://www.smalltownbikeco.com/blogs/news/environmental-benefits-of-electric-bikes
UN Environment Programme: https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/5-dangerous-pollutants-youre-breathing-every-day
American City&County: https://www.americancityandcounty.com/2022/11/04/report-e-scooters-and-e-bikes-reduce-traffic-congestion-commuting-time/