Bicycle ownership drops by half while obesity in N.C. rises by 141 percent

From My City Bikes:

(Asheville, NC) A new study released this month reveals a shocking trend: between 1989 and 2012 bicycle ownership declined by half, “from an average PBO [percentage bicycle ownership] of 60% in 1989 to 32% in 2012.” [1] Conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and published in the Journal of Transport & Health, the study analyzed data from 1.25 billion households around the world in what is considered to be the the first global study of bicycle ownership over time.

“It’s a tragedy that more than two-thirds of Generation Z are growing up in a household without a bicycle,” said Gabe Wallace, co-director of public health campaign My City Bikes. This is an especially stark fact when mirrored against the simultaneous rise of one of the greatest public health crises of our time: obesity.”

While bicycle ownership has been on the decline, locally obesity rates in North Carolina have more than doubled, from 12.3% in 1990 to 29.6% in 2012 (see Fig. 1 attached) [2].

“From a public health perspective, cycling promotes wellness, and the benefits of cycling outweigh the risks,” the study reports. Considering that each hour per day spent driving corresponds with a 6% increase in the odds of being obese [3], a shift of bicycle ownership and ridership in a positive direction is long overdue.

“In the past century both developed and developing countries have undergone rapid transitions towards motorization, which have disfavored bicycle use,” the study reports. “Increasing motorization leads to injuries from road traffic crashes, growing vehicular air pollution, and declining physical activity…The movement of people and goods by bicycle reduces vehicular air pollution and motor vehicle traffic congestion. Cycling is a key element to “livable cities”, it connects easily to other modes of transit, and it can stimulate local businesses via the addition of new cycling routes.”

Even though the issues of road safety, air pollution and public health seem big, they are changed one person at a time like anything else. By owning and riding a bicycle each Asheville resident can make a difference. In Asheville, Youngblood Bicycles have teamed up with public health campaign My City Bikes to help inexperienced riders make that change with the Asheville Bikes app, a basic utility that provides a guide to local beginner biking, as well as need-to-know information about bike safety and maintenance. “It may seem small, but just getting out for a ride for 15 minutes or biking to the park or a friends house with your family instead of taking the car does make a difference,” Wallace said.

For more information about local biking and access to the free local Asheville Bikes app, visit

My City Bikes powered by Interbike is the first and only public health campaign for beginner cyclists. The web- and mobile- campaign benefits communities by providing simple, localized mobile resources and media advocacy to facilitate cycling. “No one is exempt from the basics of biking,” and that is why My City Bikes nurtures, supports and inspires the culture of beginners in biking. Whether for fun, fitness or transportation, My City Bikes is the official guide to beginner biking opportunities. Along with its network of beginner-friendly bike shops and government partners, My City Bikes is connecting communities with their basic but essential beginner biking resources to empower individuals to improve their health by simply pedaling a bike. Join the biggest bike team in the world! Download your free local My City Bikes app at to find local entry-level rides, need-to-know DIY bike maintenance, and beginner-friendly bike shop experts in your neighborhood.

About Hayley Benton
Current freelance journalist and artist. Former culture/entertainment reporter at the Asheville Citizen-Times and former news reporter at Mountain Xpress. Also a coffee drinker, bad photographer, teller of stupid jokes and maker-upper of words. I can be reached at hayleyebenton [at] Follow me @HayleyTweeet

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.