Contrary to popular opinion, bicycling can potentially damage the environment due to the increased longevity of people engaged in physical activity, says Karl Ulrich, a Wharton Business School professor.
Ulrich argues that the greatest environmental peril society may face is the looming prospect of slowing the aging process, and bicycling potentially contributes to slowing aging.
Put simply, Ulrich says there is an underlying conflict between human-powered transportation, longevity, and environmental impact, which needs to be highlighted as the world seeks to find green solutions.
“The bicycle is a remarkable machine, allowing humans to transport themselves much more efficiently than by most other means. At the same time, physical activity, fitness, and health are almost axiomatically worthy objectives,” says Ulrich.
“And yet, the steady improvements in human health and longevity have a tremendous impact on the energy use and environmental impact of the human population.”
In a paper titled, “The Environment Paradox of Bicycling,” Ulrich argues that energy savings due to the use of human powered transportation may be offset by the increased energy used by living longer due to better health.