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First study of its kind shows that we can prevent 15K early deaths in the US by shifting to bicycling

A new study aims to quantify the lives we could save by bicycling instead of driving cars in the future. Its “ambitious high bike use” scenario predicts that 205,424 early deaths would be prevented globally by 2050. Of those, 15,309 would be in the United States.

The paper, published late 2021, is titled Premature Mortality of 2050 High Bike Use Scenarios in 17 Countries. It analyzes the health benefits of bicycling compared to its risks of traffic violence and breathing air pollution.

It turns out that the health benefits outweigh everything else, and it’s not even close. This chart shows how physical activity saves far more lives than the dangers combined, based on replacing a mere 8% of car trips with bikes:

A graph showing the premature deaths caused by physical activity, air pollution, and traffic fatalities in different countries.

This is the first study that’s analyzed bicycling’s impact on global mortality, and its findings are a conservative estimate based on existing numbers. It’s important to recognize that this study doesn’t account for other variables, such as how many driver’s lives would be saved from fewer crashes or how “vision zero” policies can protect even more people.

One thing that this data makes clear, though, is that we currently aren’t taking the health benefits of bicycling seriously enough.

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