Cycling is sustainable and healthy so why aren’t more of us on our bikes?

Cycling is sustainable and healthy so why aren’t more of us on our bikes?

Article by Wayne Visser

An International Sustainable Business column for The Guardian

In March 2013, London mayor Boris Johnson – already feted for his pay-as-you-go Boris bikes introduced in 2010 – announced plans for the longest bike route in any European city. This is part of a £1bn bid to double the number of Londoners who cycle over the next decade.

This is certainly welcome news for a city that hopes to reduce its carbon footprint by 60% by 2025. Currently, the average Londoner emits 9.6 tonnes of CO2 per year, which is lower than New York (10.5 tonnes), but almost three times Stockholm (3.6 tonnes), despite Sweden having a far colder climate. Cycling is one obvious way to make a dent on our carbon footprint in the west. But are we convinced?

According to the CTC, the UK national cycling association, a person making the average daily commute of four miles each way would save half a tonne of carbon dioxide per year if they switched from driving to cycling per year. If the UK doubled cycle use by switching from cars, this would reduce Britain’s total greenhouse emissions by 0.6m tonnes, almost as much as switching all London-to-Scotland air travel to rail.

There are obvious health benefits from cycling as well. One classic study found that, while people are killed each year in the UK while cycling (in 2012, 122 cyclists died), many others die prematurely because of lack of exercise. The study estimated that regular cycling provides a net benefit to personal health that outweighs its risk of injury by a factor of 20 to one. If anything, the situation is more extreme today, with estimates that, if things don’t change, 60% of men and 50% of women will be obese by 2050.

The charity, PleaseCycle says the benefits of cycling are demonstrated with some handy statistics. It reports that 79% of employees wish their employers had a more positive outlook on cycling and a 20% increase in cycling by 2015 could save £87m in reduced absenteeism. The charity also claims there is up to 12.5% difference in productivity between exercising and non-exercising employees and regular cycling can reduce a person’s all-cause mortality rate by up to 36%.

Even the economic benefits are compelling. The specialist economic consultancy SQW showed that, an increase in cycling by 20% would release cumulative saving of £500m by 2015. A 50% increase on current cycling rates would unlock more than £1.3bn, by reducing the costs of congestion, pollution and healthcare.

So why aren’t more of us cycling? Surely it’s not that we’re all just lazy? This is where I believe we can learn some lessons from other countries – the Netherlands in particular. The Dutch have turned cycling into a national pastime and the bicycle into a cultural icon: wherever you go in the country, there are swift-flowing rivers of cyclists.

The population of the Netherlands is under 17 million — roughly twice that of New York or London — yet they make more cycle journeys than 313 million Americans, 63 million British and 22 million Australians put together, and they do so with greater safety than cyclists in any of those countries. Londoners only make around 2% of journeys by bike, and New Yorkers even fewer, at only around 0.6% of commutes. Meanwhile, in the Netherlands on an average working day, five million people make an average of 14m cycle journeys.

So why, in an age desperate for more sustainable transport solutions, has the Netherlands succeeded so spectacularly where others have tried and failed?

Continue reading

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/article_uk_cycling_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Cycling is sustainable and healthy so why aren’t more of us on our bikes? (article)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-quest-for-sustainable-business”]Link[/button] The Quest for Sustainable Business (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

Cite this article

Visser, W. (2013) Cycling is sustainable and healthy so why aren’t more of us on our bikes? The Guardian, 20 June 2013.

Share this page

Share

Where Next for the Circular Economy?

Where Next for the Circular Economy

Article by Wayne Visser

An International Sustainable Business column for The Guardian

It is not hard to make the case for a circular economy, ie one where closed-loop production brings us closer to the goal of zero waste; according to Hunter Lovins, author and founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions, our global economy is so inefficient that less than 1% of all the resources we extract are actually used in products and are still there six months after sale.

Not only is this unbelievably inefficient, it is also profoundly unsustainable. As Richard Heinberg says in his book, Peak Everything, “The 21st century ushered in an era of declines”, from global oil, natural gas, and coal extraction to yearly grain harvests, climate stability, population, fresh water and minerals like copper and platinum.

The idea of a circular economy is not new. In the 1960s, US economist Kenneth Boulding called for a shift away from “the cowboy economy”, where endless frontiers imply no limits on resource consumption or waste disposal, to “a spaceship economy”, where everything is engineered to be constantly recycled. Mariska van Dalen, a circular economy expert at the consultancy and engineering firm Tebodin, captures the essence of the concept as: “Waste is food, use solar income and celebrate diversity.”

One of the most prominent advocates for the circular economy is Michael Braungart, co-author of Cradle to Cradle (with Bill McDonough). Today, Braungart holds academic chairs in Cradle to Cradle innovation and quality at Rotterdam School of Management and for design at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, where Braungart has found his intellectual home.

When I interviewed Braungart for the Top 50 Sustainability Books a few years ago, I found out that he regards the Netherlands as most likely to become the first circular economy. “The Dutch never romanticised nature, so it’s different to the United Kingdom or Germany,” he said. “There’s no ‘mother nature’, because with the next tide they would just swim away. It was always a culture of partnership with nature, learning from nature, and that’s what we need. We can learn endlessly from nature, but it’s not about romanticising nature.”

The Netherlands also have a culture of support, whereas the Americans, Germans, British and Swedish have a culture of control, Braungart said. “They assume human beings are bad anyway and we need to control them to be less bad. But the Dutch culture is a culture of support, because if you don’t support your neighbour, you will drown (because your neighbour couldn’t take care of your dyke). Even if you don’t like your neighbour, you need to support your neighbour. So Cradle to Cradle is a culture of support.”

I was interested to find out whether experts working on the circular economy in the Netherlands also shared Braungart’s confidence. Krispijn Beek, who worked at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Innovation and Agriculture on sustainable business policy, said “Cradle to Cradle was a big hit in the Netherlands, including government.” Apparently, the trend really took off after a 2006 television documentary, Afval = Voedsel (Waste = Food).

However, at a later point the idea stalled – at least in government. Beek claims that “one of the showstoppers was the commercial certification process, which made it impossible to use Cradle to Cradle in public procurement.” …

Continue reading

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/article_netherlands_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Where Next for the Circular Economy? (article)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-quest-for-sustainable-business”]Link[/button] The Quest for Sustainable Business (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

Cite this article

Visser, W. (2012) Where Next for the Circular Economy? The Guardian, 10 December 2012.

Share this page

Share