Bicycles race ahead of automobiles

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

-- GLOBAL bicycle production rose by more than 5 million in 1992 but world automobile production remained almost stagnant at the 1991 level of 35 million. In 1992, 100 million bicycles were produced the world over -- a remarkable journey indeed for the cheap and most environment-friendly mode of transport.

In 1969, cars and bicycles vied neck-and-neck for the slot of the most common means of transport, with production figures at about 25 million each. But in the two decades that followed, bicycles left their more expensive rivals behind. India and China produce more than half of all the bicycles in the world.

But a lot of the environment quality that is saved by increasing bicycle use and slower car growth rate may be getting reversed by other developments in the transport sector. According to the Worldwatch Institute publication Vital Signs 1993, air travel -- the biggest polluter in mass transport -- grew by a substantial 7 per cent in 1992, with total passenger traffic reaching 1.97 trillion passenger-km. Air cargo rose by 5 per cent during this period. Interestingly, air travel had actually dropped by about 3 per cent in 1991.

Another disturbing sign is reduced carbon efficiency -- for one kg of carbon emitted into the atmosphere, world economic output in 1991 was $3.19, compared to $3.22 in 1990.

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