A modest shift from 7 to 23 per cent of global modal share could have stunning results for economies and climate

Global cycling shift ‘could save cities $25 trillion and 10% of co2’

Should the world see a drastic shift in cycling’s modal share, economies around the globe could save an estimated $25 trillion by 2050, ($700bn per year), says a scientific study carried out by the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy and UC Davis.

The first of its kind, the detailed global analysis suggests that the right mix of investments and public policies could bring bikes and e-bikes to cover up to 14% of urban kilometers by 2050 – ranging from about 25% in the Netherlands and China to about 7% in the U.S. and Canada. The potential is enormous when considering that typically more than half of all urban trips around the world are less than 10 kilometers and can be potentially be done by bike.

This comes on the same day that the UK reveals that traffic volumes are steadily on the rise, with a new record posted for miles driven. Simply changing habits to promote cycling to work is touted as a key way to make improvements in modal share, not to mention decreasing the mortality rate among those who do so by as much as 40 per cent.

Department for Transport statistics revealed recently offer an opportunity to develop cycle to school levels, another avenue by which the study’s goals could be achieved. Within this data it is revealed that 51/52% (primary/secondary) school kids are driven to school with average distance of under 1.6/3.4 miles – a distance that researchers conclude is a key area to develop modal change.

The knock on effect of the study’s hypothetical shift, means less money spent on fresh roads, parking and much more, says Lew Fulton, co-director of the STEPS program within the Institute of Transportation Studies.

"The estimated impacts surprised me because they are so large. The costs saved in lower energy use and reducing the need for car travel, new roads, and parking lots through 2050 are substantial,” said Fulton. 

At present, global cycling modal share sits at around seven per cent of urban trips. A shift to 23 per cent, something many consider achievable with the right infrastructure and as shown in places like the Netherlands and Denmark, could have a stunning impact on both the financial fortunes of a country, as well as big implications for c02 reduction.

The study reveals that such a shift could reduce the annual total of co2 emitted globally by 300 megatonnes.

The report states: "In summary, the increase in cycling/e-biking around the world by 2030 in the HSC scenario cuts both energy use and CO2 emissions from the entirety of urban transport by about 7 percent compared to a High Shift scenario without a strong cycling component, rising to a near 11 percent reduction by 2050. Under current trends CO2 from urban transport will soar from 2.3 gigatonnes of CO2 in 2015 to 4.3 gigatonnes by 2050. Under the HSC scenario, including the impact from increased public transport use, this figure could be cut in half, potentially resulting in a 2 gigatonnes reduction in CO2 emissions per year by 2050."

“This is an excellent study; worthy to be used worldwide for getting cycling in all policies across the globe at all levels, from local to international. We need to unlock the potential”, said Dr. Bernhard Ensink, Secretary-General of the European Cyclists’ Federation, one of the associations which commissioned the study. 

"Cycling is a crucial means of transport for millions of people around the world,” says Brian Cookson, President of the UCI, which also co-funded the work. “This report demonstrates that, if more governments followed good examples like the Netherlands or Denmark to make their cities better for cycling, we’d see huge benefits from lower carbon emissions, hugely reduced costs in transport infrastructure and potentially safer, healthier places.” 

"This study shows the profound impact that cycling can have in developing countries like India and China, where much of the infrastructure has yet to be built,” according to Jacob Mason, co-author of the study. “Building cities for cycling will not only lead to cleaner air and safer streets–it will save people and governments a substantial amount of money, which can be spent on other things. That’s smart urban policy."

To achieve the above, the study suggests Governments around the world:

 • Rapidly develop cycling and e-bike infrastructure on a large scale

• Implement bike share programs in largeand medium-size cities, prioritizing connections to transit

• Revise laws and enforcement practices to better protect people cycling and walking

• Invest in walking facilities and public transport to create a menu of nonmotorized transport options that can be combined to accommodate a wide variety of trips

• Coordinate metropolitan transport and land-use plans, so that all new investments result in more cycling, walking, and public transport trips and fewer trips by motorized vehicles

• Repeal policies that subsidize additional motor vehicle use, such as minimum parking requirements, free on-street parking, and fuel subsidies

• Encourage cycling and active transport via pricing policies and information campaigns

• Adopt policies such as congestion pricing, vehicle kilometers traveled (VKT) fees, and development impact fees to charge a price for driving that accounts for negative externalities

• Dedicate fuel taxes, driving fees, and other transport-system revenues toward investment in sustainable transport.

Electric bike growth is factored into the conclusions, with many mainland European countries, China and Japan posting impressive sales growth, particularly in the past five years.

Sales figures and trends show that outside of the Asia Pacific, in particular, the opportunity for the market to grow is substantial.

To read the report in its entirety, click here.

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