Eco Friendly Transportation Alternatives: Are Two Wheels Greener Than Four?

With the start of the new year, many people are looking to save money and go green. Choosing eco friendly transportation alternatives can help you reduce expenses and lighten your carbon footprint. My husband and I are avid motorcyclists and get away as often as we can for a journey on the open road. When I met him in college, he had just purchased his first bike and it was our only means of transportation for quite a while. Let me tell you, riding in New Hampshire in November can get QUITE chilly! In graduate school, we upgraded to a nicer bike. The cost of the bike was offset by the fact that we got free parking on campus! Anyone who has been in graduate school knows that free is great! We sold that bike when we moved to Atlanta but soon after bought our third and current ride, a BMW RT1100 that he washes and polishes with a disturbing regularity.

 Are Two Wheels Greener Than Four?

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Eco Friendly Transportation Alternatives: Are Two Wheels Greener Than Four?

I cannot image NOT having a motorcycle…there is just something amazing about a ride through the mountain roads. Taking a hairpin turn with the wind rushing over your helmet is amazing. There is truly nothing more invigorating!

I will not get into safety issues in this article. Suffice it to say that my husband has taken defensive motorcycling classes and is aware that at all times CARS DON’T SEE HIM. He has taken his bike out into deserted roads and empty parking lots to learn how it handles in a sharp turn or with fast breaking. If you look at the statistics, most motorcycle accidents involve young riders on crotch rockets, people who are speeding or impaired by alcohol, etc. Statistics show that when ridden properly, motorcycles are actually safer than cars (but obviously more dangerous to the rider in an actual accident)  The risk is there. This article is not to debate the motorcycle’s SAFETY but it’s benefit to the environment as a whole.

Eco Friendly Transportation Alternatives: Are Two Wheels Greener Than Four?

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How Fuel Efficient Are Motorcycles?

 According to USA Today,  the average fuel economy for cars in 2011 had to meet a standard of 27.3 miles per gallon, which is a 2 MPG increase over the 2010 requirements. According to the US Department of Transportation, the average motorcycle gets between 40 and 100 miles per gallon! This number depends on the size and weight of the bike, city versus open road, and factors in scooters as well which get very high gas milage.
There is some debate about whether this increased fuel economy translates to ‘better for the environment’, however. Some studies indicate that the TYPE of emissions given off by motorcycles are worse for the environment than the more strictly EPA regulated car emissions. This is a relatively complicated argument that I won’t bore you with. It involves the presence or absence of catalytic converters and is way over my head. In recent years, however, the EPA has addressed these motorcycle emissions issues and newer bikes offer a much cleaner ride than older models. There is no debate, however, that they use CONSIDERABLY less fuel!

The Impact of Motorcycles on Roads

 Fuel consumption is not the only consideration when looking at whether or not a motorcycle is a ‘greener’ method of transportation compared to cars. Have you ever tried to find parking in a crowded downtown city? Some days, it is next to impossible!  Think about this:  In the space it takes to park ONE car, you can fit FOUR motorcycles! That would free up a lot of spaces and maybe we could do away will some of these acres of asphalt you see all around town!
Another impact on roads and transportation: Motorcycles take up less space on the highways and would help reduce congestion. 85% of commuter vehicles carry only one person so if these vehicles were motorcycles instead of cars you would have a much less crowded commute.

 Eco Friendly Transportation Alternatives

 Eco Friendly Transportation Alternatives Are Two Wheels Greener Than Four

Motorcycle Manufacturing

Then, there are the costs associated with manufacturing. It costs much less to build a motorcycle, requiring fewer fossil fuels in the actual construction materials and the manufacturing processes involved. In fact, the number I came across suggest that motorcycles require 1/7th of the resources needed compared to car manufacturing. Motorcycles last longer since they don’t have all that rust prone body work. Nitrogen and CO2 emissions resulting from glass manufacturing for the windshields of cars and trucks is substantial and since there is no glass anywhere on many motorcycles, this is not an issue for them.

Hybrid and Electric Motorcycles

Two-wheeled eco friendly transportation alternatives are going even greener! The hybrid/electric motorcycle is gaining popularity. Many can go up to 100 miles without recharging and manufacturers are trying to find a balance between ecofriendly and badass to appeal to the motorcycle enthusiasts.

So, when you are considering eco friendly transportation alternatives, maybe you should look into a 2 wheeled option as opposed to 4 wheels. You could reduct your carbon footprint and, at the same time, improve your emotional well-being with a ride on the open road!

You can read more about the environmental impact of motorcycles at

What eco friendly transportation alternatives are YOU considering?


 Check out my green career guide for more green living tip!

Green Career Guide. Sustainability Initiatives to look for in a future employer

2 thoughts on “Eco Friendly Transportation Alternatives: Are Two Wheels Greener Than Four?”

    • Weather is definitely a factor. And taking a safety course is key to being a good motorcycle driver but there is always a higher risk, unfortunately.


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