The full name of this website is “EcoVelo: Eco-Friendly Bicycling”. A few people have asked what we mean by “eco-friendly bicycling”, since all forms of bike riding produce no pollution. We define eco-friendly bicycling as, “Using a bicycle in place of a polluting vehicle to reduce our environmental impact.” This could mean a single trip to the grocery store or a full-blown car-free lifestyle — as long as a car trip is replaced, the impact has been reduced and the activity falls into what we think of as eco-friendly.
Typically, all forms of bike riding are assumed to be eco-friendly. You get on a bike, you go for a ride, and no fossil fuels were burned in the process — it seems pretty obvious and intuitive. Even bicycle racing, on its surface, appears eco-friendly. But upon closer inspection, recreational bicycling is only “eco-neutral” in the same way watching television or playing basketball are eco-neutral. Partaking in an activity that produces no pollution is not the same as reducing your overall environmental impact. You wouldn’t say “eco-friendly television watching”, even though watching television produces no pollution.
This is not a dig on recreational bicycling. The fact that it’s a healthy, enjoyable activity has its own value and rewards. Plus, (and most importantly) it may eventually lead people to riding a bicycle for transportation. But let’s not delude ourselves; riding solely for pleasure doesn’t replace a car trip or take a single car off the road. If we really want to reduce our environmental footprint, we need to look at bike riding as a healthy and enjoyable way to replace motor vehicle trips.