How green is your bike?

Categories: Big picture
Published on: May 24, 2015

Momentum / Laura McCamy / 27 April 2015

GreenCycling_XtracycleSeveral bicycle manufacturers we contacted for this story were unwilling to discuss the carbon footprint of their manufacturing operations. Based on a study by Shreya Dave of MIT in 2010, they probably don’t need to worry about it. Dave’s Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) considered a variety of modes of transportation, from walking and bicycling to planes, trains, and automobiles. She calculated the life cycle energy use of the typical bicycle to be 60 kilojoules per passenger mile traveled (PMT): 51 kilojoules for manufacturing and 9 kilojoules for maintenance over an estimated 15-year life span. Electric bikes were only slightly more energy intensive at 82 kilojoules/ PMT, because of a small amount of fuel use and increased manufacturing costs. Compared to the 4027 kilojoules/ PMT consumed by a sedan and even the 1441 kilojoules/ PMT of Boston’s Green Line train, bicycling was a big winner in lifetime energy use. The only mode that bests it is walking, which comes in at 0.