Are motorcycles better for the environment?

One upshot to riding a motorcycle is the fuel efficiency. Putting aside how cool, how fun, how absolutely thrilling it is to ride, you’re also always getting better mileage than any of the other guys on the road.

That got me thinking, shouldn’t the motorcycle be a symbol of the environmental movement?

I dabble a bit in saving the planet. I recycle. I clean up parks when I have some free time. Around the end of the year, I donate to a few Earth-friendly organizations if I have money left over after buying everything for Christmas. And, when I’m not riding, I take the bus everywhere.

It sure would be nice to be able to pat myself on the back for being even more Earth-friendly than I thought. I might even be able to convince myself that the environmental impact was one of the reasons I started riding in the first place.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that clear-cut. According to the MythBusters, motorcycles do have better fuel efficiency, and they do have lower carbon dioxide emissions, but they emit far more of some of other pollutants.

According to the LA Times, that includes more than 8,000% more carbon monoxide and 416% more hydrocarbons.

To sum it up best, of course, there’s Adam Savage: “At best, it’s a wash. Motorcycles are just as bad for the environment as cars,” he said on the show. “At worst, they’re far worse.”

This result was apparently not unexpected. According to experts in the article, the problem is the lack of space and the quick rise in cost for motorcycles. There’s simply not the room to attach some of the fancy engine changes that cars all have now to lower their emissions. At the same time, the motorcycle has just been able to slip by without as much attention to that side of its engineering since it isn’t the main vehicle for most people.

Still, it’s a disappointment for me, since I now feel a little more guilty when I go for a long ride. At least, as the article says, it took fewer raw materials to put the bike together. That’s something.

And, I suppose, if I forget about the kind of emissions, there’s something to be said for motorcycles taking up less than one percent of the overall pollution.

In the end, though, guilt or not, I’ll keep riding. The risks of riding never stopped me from it, and the costs are unlikely to do so either. I know bikers have a higher risk of serious accidents. I take the proper precautions. Now, I know bikers also create a lot of pollution, how I’ll take precautions against that, I don’t know.

Perhaps I’ll try to offset somehow. I could donate more, and more often. I could try to eliminate some other kind of environmentally unfriendly behavior. Perhaps I’ll give up plastic bags.

I encourage everyone reading to consider these sorts of steps. I doubt many of us would give up our rides, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something to keep the world a little cleaner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *