The concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere is now 400 parts per million. That doesn't really seem like a lot until you realize that according to ice core samples and other means of measurement it has not been at that level for millions of years, long before human kind appeared.
While far too many of us seem either oblivious or unconcerned about this historic milestone, the consensus of climate scientists is that we now have 'baked' into Earth's future a climate that will be far different than the one humanity evolved during, with dangerous consequences to life on the planet.
We have to do something about the amount of carbon we are spewing into the atmosphere and it turns out that New York City just did something about it. It's called Citibike, the largest bikesharing program in the United States, to date. With a goal of 10,000 blue bikes in the system, Citibike got off to a promising start last week with its first 5,000 annual memberships sold out within a day of becoming available. By Wednesday, the following day, this had surged to 20,000 members. Currently Washington D.C.'s CapitalBike system leads with 34,000 members.
Assuming that all those new members take advantage of the system at least once a year, that's that many fewer car trips, cab rides and people on the subways. But it also translates into some very interesting numbers in terms of reductions in CO2 emissions.
In their recently-published book, "City Cycling" academicians and active mobility (walking, cycling) advocates John Pucher and Ralph Buehler tabulate the emissions savings of a number of the world's largest and longest running bikeshare systems; and the numbers are pretty impressive. Citing a 2008 SmartBike study, they report that when you combine bikeshare systems in Europe and North America, bike trips per day total 200,000 km, saving 37,000 kg of CO2. And this was before some of the really big systems started.
The Velib bikeshare system in Paris averages 78,000 20-minute trips per day, equivalent to 312,000 km (193,000 miles). That's a savings of 57,720 kg of carbon dioxide. In US terms, that's 63 tons of CO2 per day!
The huge bikeshare program in Hangzhou, with some 61,000 bicycles, generated 172,000 trips per day average in October 2009, covering some 1,032,000 km (641,000 miles) per day! The authors point out that a car traveling that distance would produce 190,920 kg (210 tons) of CO2.
Those are dramatic numbers, though the authors point out that they are (1) estimates only, and (2) virtually all of these systems rely on trucks and vans to redistribute bikes around the system over night. Many are natural gas powered, so that helps cut emissions, but it reduces the overall emissions impact. As an aside, this suggests that since the trucks are generally only used overnight for repositioning purposes, they could be electric and charged by solar, for example, during daylight hours when they might be parked.
The other question is, does having access to bikeshare systems actually reduce member car travel? The data would suggest that it does. One of the oldest running bikeshare systems in Lyon, France reports that "bicycle use replaced 7 percent of trips that would otherwise have been made by private vehicles." Paris' Velib system reported in 2008 that 20 percent of its members were using their personal vehicles less frequently.
Despite howls of protests from OpEd pages of the Wall Street Journal and New York Post, as well as expected technical glitches, Citibike is going to be an important tool in helping New Yorkers better manage their personal carbon footprints, and that's were all revolutions start, with the individual.
SOURCE: EV World.com
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