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Active Transportation is a win for the environment

image source: HMFH Architects Change Starts at Home – With Our Commute

Active Transportation is a win for our environment too!

MnDOT, the Metropolitan Council, and many cities and counties are pursuing greenhouse gas reduction from transportation strategies that include biking and walking. MnDOT’s Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council (STAC) is guiding these efforts at the state level. Early in 2021 MnDOT  accepted the recommendations of the Fueling and Powering Transportation and Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) STAC work groups. Among their many recommendations they notably said charging infrastructure should include outlets for charging e-bikes and that VMT reduction needs to be a big part of the solution, along with electrification. Achieving such a goal will take a coordinated effort that involves infrastructure investment and land use planning to make transit, active transportation, and telecommuting more accessible. There is consensus among the Council that facilitating the use of biking, walking and e-bikes for transportation will be an increasingly important part of this effort.

E-bike sales have been growing 100% per year for the past couple years. Minnesota specialty retailers/bike shops expect $65 million in sales in 2021 alone. 152,000 e-bikes were sold last year in the U.S., a figure that would be more than five million if Americans used them at the same rate as western Europeans. Minnesota and many other states are working to catch up. 

Encouraging e-bike use makes so much sense. Even though a lot of the bike sales are mainly for recreational use, studies show that people slowly begin using them as transportation for short trips. With increased infrastructure we have an opportunity to capitalize on the continued  overall increase in walking and biking, especially on e-bikes with their numerous practical and environmental advantages. The majority of trips people take—to school, to work, and for errands—are less than ten miles, easily within e-bike range. In fact, a Bureau of Transportation Statistics study found that up to 69% of car trips are two miles or less. E-bikes are still the most energy-efficient form of motorized transport, consuming the electricity equivalent of about 1,000 miles per gallon of gasoline. A study by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy shows that transportation mode-shifting to bicycles and e-bikes—increasing from about 7% worldwide (much lower in the U.S.) today to approximately 22% of urban passenger travel distance by 2050—would greatly reduce emissions and save $128 trillion compared to business-as-usual. 

“Climate change is real, I recognize that the single biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the United States is the transportation sector. Thankfully, that means that the transportation sector gets to be the biggest part of the solution.” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg when speaking to congress in April 2021