Girls on a Bicycle.JPG

Cycling, bicycling or biking refers to using a bicycle as a means of personal transport or the transport of other people/cargo, for electricity generation, or as means of recreation, or sport.

Benefits of cycling[edit | edit source]

Optimized-Bicycle 1.jpg

There are many benefits for the use of bicycling as a form of transportation. These include, but are not limited to, being inexpensive, being practical in many locations, functions, etc. Overall, they are very practical devices.

Inexpensive[edit | edit source]

Bicycles are not expensive. A bike can be as simple as two tires, pedals, a chain, a seat, handle bars, and metal to connect it all together. They can also be complicated by adding gears and other unnecessary parts. I call these extra parts unnecessary because they are not important to the idea the a bicycle can get you from point A to point B -- although the parts can effect the efficiency of transport.

The cost of bicycles vary depending on the materials it is made with. While certain types of materials are better than others, a number of different materials can be used for different parts. Therefore, in certain situations bicycles can even be homemade. Also, the tools required for this job are just as simple as the final product. The physics behind the production is simply to attach everything in the right way for the total system to work properly. Therefore, no real skills are needed to build one, simply a little knowledge is all somebody would need. A variety of tools can be used to build a bike, a screw driver and a few wrenches is all you really need. Therefore, even the tools are simple and inexpensive. There are no real alternative tools because there would be no real advantage to using anything else.

Furthermore, there are many organizations that collect and donate bicycles to areas they can benefit from them. One such program is through GoodWill and can be found on the website at

Various Locations[edit | edit source]

Just about any place on earth where there are a lot of people, a bicycle is a practical thing to own. Basically, anywhere you can walk, you can ride a bike. The only areas that could never benefit from the practical uses of a bicycle are places where there is a lot of snow for most of the year. (Bicycles can be easily adapted for use in snowy areas: see IceBike)

However, many of the developing countries that would benefit from these the most can use them most days of the year. Yes, there will be days when the weather is so poor with rain or snow that a bicycle is not worth it for the inexperienced rider. But on these days you likely won't see many people on foot either. Therefore, bicycles would be a useful product in almost every location.

Practical Functions[edit | edit source]

Bicycles are so practical in many daily activities. The most obvious is the idea that people can get around faster with a bike than they can just by walking for a lot cheaper than having to buy and keep up with owning a car. A less obvious advantage is the ideal that bicycles can also help to haul a small load. A cart can easily be attached to the back of the bike for transporting a large variety of objects. The cart needs to be attached properly, but the physics behind that is very simple. Basically it cannot be too large or too heavy for the bike to pull. The maximum weight then depends on strength of the rider. Another advantage here is that almost everybody has stronger legs than arms and pulling weight by pedaling is easier than carrying with their arms or on their backs. It is also easy to learn how to ride a bike, mistakes are rare. When they do occur it is rarely anything serious either.

Economic impact of cycling[edit | edit source]

Cycling offers various economic benefits:

  • cycleways are cheaper than roads
  • leads to better health, meaning lower medical costs[1] and higher productivity
  • leads to better physical health (obviously - if there is believed to be a safety problem which depends on the particular location, this has to be weighed up as well, as one factor).
  • would be expected to lead to better mental health (less stressful, more enjoyable, plus the
cycling is often quicker than driving, when traffic is heavy, leading to more

Alan Durning on the Sightline Institute blog offers his analysis: Wheels of Fortune (Bicycle Neglect #10)

Social impact of cycling[edit | edit source]

Social capitalW and happiness in the community are important factors in setting policy. Cycling offers several advantages:

  • Faces are visible and conversation is possible making it possible to connect with and possibly befriend other cyclists and even pedestrians, especially when meeting them on regular commuting or recreational routes.
  • Exercise improves one's mental state.[verification needed]

Purpose of cycling[edit | edit source]

As a means of personal transport[edit | edit source]

Even areas with just footpaths bicycling is the most energy-efficient means of transport generally available. Bicycling at low to medium speeds (10-15 mph, 16-24 km/h), uses only the energy required to walk.

In both biological and mechanical terms, the bicycle is extraordinarily efficient. In terms of the amount of energy a person must expend to travel a given distance, investigators have calculated it to be the most efficient self-powered means of transportation.[2] From a mechanical viewpoint, up to 99% of the energy delivered by the rider into the pedals is transmitted to the wheels, although the use of gearing mechanisms may reduce this by 10-15%.[3][4]

In terms of the ratio of cargo weight a bicycle can carry to total weight, it is also a most efficient means of cargo transportation.

An added bonus is that a bicycle can utilize gravity to go faster down hill and even partialy any counterpart hills.

As a means of transporting other people/cargo[edit | edit source]

Transporting other people[edit | edit source]

The Bicycle taxi or boda boda has become popular in Uganda and Kenya, they operate for hire from stands in towns, bus stops and market centres. The name boda boda is said to come from the time when the East African Community existed and there was free movement across the boarder between Uganda and Kenya. Travellers were offered transport to the boarder by bicycle-riders shouting 'Border Border' to attract passengers. Converting a bicycle to a taxi requires reinforced forks, stronger brakes, a passenger seat and footrests, and cushions. New seat designs enable woman to ride side-addle should help to improve access.

Although the work is hard, the operators can earn a living despite a lack of formal education. The community transport organisation in Ndhiwa and The Kibos Cycle Taxi Association of Kisumu, Western Kenya worked in conjunction with Practical Action East Africa to:

  • enhance the safety of bicycle taxis
  • provide a cycle lane along the Kibos road
  • set up a mini-medical insurance scheme for passengers and operators
  • provide a credit scheme and repair fund for the members

Cargo transport[edit | edit source]

Extended cycle user Aloysius Fernando, cultivator of mainly plantains & peanuts, sells peanuts in nearby towns. With the extended cycle, he can now transport enough to meet demand (1200 packets as opposed to 400 packets on his original bicycle). With increased business earnings he began to cultivate a larger area of land and could hire a peanut shelling machine.

Electricity generation[edit | edit source]

The bicycle's dynamo can be used to charge a mobile device. See the universal bike charger system and The Cycle Charger

Cost[edit | edit source]

The bicycle is still expensive for poorer families in Africa and can cost between 20 to over 100 per cent of a rural household's annual income. Therefore, transport needs to be supported by an affordable system of manufacture, supply, and repair.

Affordability is related to the availability of spare parts and repair services, which are sometime lacking in rural areas. Several projects have attempted to boost local economics by encouraging artisanal production of suitable transport and improve the local capabilities of metal workers to maintain and repair bicycles and other types of transport.

Safety[edit | edit source]

Many people choose not to cycle due to safety concerns. However, Alan Durning on the Sightline Institute blog argues that cycling is safer than people think - even safer than driving, when all health factors are taken into account (see the argument and analysis at Safe Streets (Bicycle Neglect #9). (No doubt this would vary a lot depending on the location and traffic conditions - Jakarta for example could be expected to be extremely dangerous for cyclists as well as pedestrians - certainly motorcyclists experience a shocking rate of death and injury).

Compare the effects on public health as well. An Australian study concluded that more people die of respiratory conditions due to air pollution from cars, than die from traffic accidents.[verification needed]

Another Australian study compared the exposure to pollution of various modes of transport - walking, driving, transit, and cycling. (what were the exact results? Was this a proper study or just one sample of each, for the What's Good for You? TV program?[expansion needed])

Of course, safety is much greater when wearing a helmet, and this is highly recommended. However, a UK study found that requiring people to wear helmets had resulted in a drop in the number of cyclists, and it was estimated that more people died due to low fitness (heart problems etc) than would have died if they'd been allowed to cycle without helmets.[verification needed] This suggests a more lenient policy - encouraging helmets, but not carrying out actions (in particular fines) that will discourage people from cycling if they hate helmets. Perhaps more comfortable helmets could be designed, as an option for the helmet-averse - safer than going bareheaded, but more likely to be worn.[expansion needed] Another idea might be to allow non-use of helmets on bike paths, but require them when cycling on the roads - though legal penalties should still be weighed carefully, lest cycling be discouraged.

Regardless of the actual safety of cyclists on the road, it seems obvious that safer and more pleasant cycling conditions would lead to more people cycling.

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. Whether this is directly a community cost or purely borne by the individual depends on which country is being examined, whether there is a state-funded system.
  2. "Bicycle Technology", S.S. Wilson, Scientific American, March 1973
  3. "Johns Hopkins Gazette", 30 August, 1999
  4. "Bicycling Science", Frank R. Whitt, David G. Wilson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1982, ISBN 0-262-23111-5
FA info icon.svg Angle down icon.svg Page data
Keywords cycling, pedal power, transport, green living, sustainable cities, sustainable transport gallery types
SDG SDG03 Good health and well-being, SDG11 Sustainable cities and communities
Authors KVDP, Chris Watkins
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Language English (en)
Translations Arabic
Related 1 subpages, 29 pages link here
Aliases Bikes, Bicycling, Cycle, Benefits of cycling
Impact 1,703 page views
Created February 27, 2007 by Chris Watkins
Modified June 10, 2024 by Kathy Nativi
Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies.