A lot of you know that I fancy race cycling a lot and that is my reason for writing this blog.
I became motivated and inspired to write this blog after having read an article in Fietssport magazine nr. 3-2021 (issued by the NTFU) written by Erik Bronsvoort.
Many people think that cycling is sustainable by nature and that seems obvious. Of course, cycling does provide a solution to many of the world most complex problems: congestion, public health, and climate change. But is it fair that cycling has been given an environmental free pass based on this assumption or is this assumption incorrect?
I don’t think the given environmental free pass is fair, because even products such as bikes that benefit people and our planet do leave behind a carbon footprint, and I think it is that footprint we need to address. This concerns not only the cycling industry, but all cyclists in the world, you and me included. We could ask ourselves if it is truly necessary to buy that stylish new race bike?
Is it all that bad in this industry? No, fortunately there are good examples. One is Vittoria, a company that offers ‘Tyres as a service’. This is a subscription service to maximize efficiency, cost control, and sustainability
After digging further, I discovered that Trek, a leading cycling brand, launched its first sustainability report. This report was based on its first emissions audit. To my knowledge, it is the first bike manufacturer to do this. It is an interesting read that I can highly recommend. Furthermore, The Guardian found it remarkable that ‘this appears to be the first time a major bike company has published such a document.’
In the report, Trek addresses 10 areas of focus to reduce their footprint. Examples of these areas are reduction of air freight, shift to renewable energy, remove plastic waste from packaging, etc. These are all good areas and topics that I fully support, but in this blog I would like to highlight and focus on what every cyclist can and should contribute. I will explain this shortly.
Naturally, the report makes clear that every bike leaves a carbon footprint in raw materials, production, and transportation. Trek investigated and comprehensively analyzed the carbon emissions produced by four of its popular bike models and found out that the average carbon footprint is approximately 174 kg CO2e. I have to note that if they would have excluded the E-bikes in their research, the average footprint would have been 155 kg CO2e. This is because the carbon footprint of an electrical bike appears to be approximately 50% higher compared to a non-electrical one.
The good news is that the carbon cost of manufacturing a bike can be fully mitigated by its use. A bike is in fact a product that can offset the carbon impact of its manufacturing through its actual use. Amazing, isn’t it? In its report, Trek introduced ‘The Rule of 430’ which means if you ride 430 miles (approx. 690 km’s) that you would have otherwise driven in a fossil-fueled car, you will have saved the carbon equivalent of what it took to produce your bike. While riding a bike for recreational purposes is great, of course these kilometers cannot be taken into account in application of this rule.
The Trek rule is based on the average, calculated carbon emission of 174 kg CO2e per bike and the average mileage of American cars. When I convert this to a more realistic approach and the Dutch mileage, it is necessary to ride approximately 500 miles (800 km’s) to accomplish the CO2-neutral goal and almost 700 miles (1.100 km’s) if you are an EV-driver (calculation details are available on request 😉). So to be on the safe side and to leave the world as a better place, I propose a ‘Rule of 1.500 km’. Isn’t this a practical and tangible goal that comes along with your new bike?
In my humble opinion, compliance with this rule ought to be the minimum standard every cyclist should accept as their part of CO2 absorption for the planet. Deal?
Last but not least, Trek’s research showed that five Dutch cities are in the Top 10 European Cities for biking in 2021.