Promoting bicycling can have major impact on mitigating GHG emissions

In the Netherlands, one in four trips is made on a bicycle. If the whole world biked as much as they do in the Netherlands, over 680 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could be avoided every year. than Freedman discusses the benefits of cycling in an article on The Independent website. And while you read the article, listen to what Queen has to say about bicycles.


If we all biked like the Dutch, world could offset Germany’s emissions each year

The Netherlands is famous for many things but perhaps nothing is so uniquely Dutch as their embrace of the humble bicycle.

And if the whole world biked as much as they do in the Netherlands, over 680 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could be avoided every year — more than the annual emissions of Germany, a new study has found.

The study highlighted the importance of the sustainable, carbon-free transportation, adding new weight to arguments for expanding bike-friendly infrastructure like dedicated cycle lanes.

Researchers looked at bike production and use around the world since the mid-20th century, with emphasis placed on how more biking could reduce carbon emissions. Their results were published on Thursday in the journal Communications Earth & Environment.

Over the past 60 years, bike production has boomed. In 1962, just over 20 million bicycles were produced but by 2015 that number had shot up to more than 123 million.

That’s much more growth than cars. Automobiles went from 14 million produced in 1962 to about 67 million in 2015.

Much of that bicycle growth is thanks to China, the researchers found as ownership skyrocketed in the 1980s and 1990s. However bike ownership has increased all over the world.

All those new bikes don’t mean people are using them much, however. In most countries, bikes accounted for less than 5 per cent of all trips, the study found. That was true even in countries where many people owned bikesike the US, Canada and the UK.

The winners were Sweden, Denmark, Japan and the Netherlands. In each of those countries, bikes were used for more than 15 per cent of trips. In the Netherlands, more than one in four trips were made on bicycles.

That’s where the emissions savings come in. The Dutch cycle an average of 2.6 kilometres (1.6 miles) per day, the researchers found. If the whole world were to adopt this level of cycling, the world would save 686m tonnes of CO2 each year.

Even if the world only cycled like the Danish – 1.6km (1 mile) per day on average – the world could prevent 414m tonnes of carbon emissions — equivalent to Australia’s entire carbon footprint in 2020.

Blaming individual people for not biking isn’t productive, however. The study authors noted that there are plenty of reasons why people might forgo cycling.

Very cold or very hot climates, and hilly terrain are among the barriers, the study found.

In some countries, like the US, Canada and Australia, lower population densities can make biking difficult, the authors noted. When towns are more spread out, or travelling between two distant locations in rural areas, often the only way to get there reasonably is in a vehicle.

Many cities increased bike lanes and other accommodations for cyclists at the start of the Covid pandemic. The authors point to research last year which found that interest in biking shot up as a result.

But the quality of the bike infrastructure also matters. Anyone who’s attempted to navigate a bike between a parked car and a lane of moving cars can tell you it’s not exactly pleasant compared to a leisurely pedal in a stand-alone bike lane.

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