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ECF Study Puts Cycling in the Spotlight at Paris COP21

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BRUSSELS, Belgium – Getting more people cycling rather than driving could save up to 10% of global urban transport emissions of carbon dioxide and up to USD 25 trillion in the cost of infrastructure by 2050, the report found. This huge potential for cycling has been revealed thanks a new study published in the month prior to the Paris Climate Change Conference which will start on November 30.

ECF Study Puts Cycling in the Spotlight at Paris COP21
A new study published prior to the Paris Climate Change Conference revealed the huge potential for cycling. – Photo ITDP

“Cycling is a crucial means of transport for millions of people around the world,” said UCI President Brian Cookson. “We are delighted to have co-funded this report which demonstrates that, if more governments followed good examples like the Netherlands and Denmark to make their cities better for cycling, we would see huge increases in the quality of life in those cities, lower carbon emissions and reduced costs of transport.”

Give priority to cyclists

A shift to cycling would require substantial changes to the way that cities were run and the way new cities were constructed: better bike infrastructure, laws to give priority to cyclists and greater restraint on private motor traffic would be necessary to obtain the benefits of cycling.

The study analysed almost 1,000 cities around the world to establish, for the first time, existing levels of cycling around the world. The authors found that on average 6% of all travel was made by bike, ranging from around 1% in North America and Australia to around 25% in many cities in the Netherlands, China and Japan. By 2030, given stronger policy measures, cycling could reach 11% of global travel demand, and 14% by 2050, saving billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in the process.

Presentation by ECF at climate change conference

These findings will prove crucial in making the case that cycling should be given greater consideration in future investments in climate and development policies, and will be presented by the European Cyclists’ Federation and the authors of the report at the global conference on climate change in Paris in December.

Using scenarios from the International Energy Agency, the study outlined the expected increase in urban transport likely to arise as the world’s population swells to at least 9 billion by the middle of the century, of which 70% will live in cities. This ‘Business as Usual’ scenario shows energy demand from transport soaring, as many people currently living in cities in the developing world shift from foot- and bike-based transport based to cars.

Investing in cycling

This pessimistic vision of the future – in which cycling loses ground to driving in many cities around the world – need not necessarily become reality. For this, investment would need to be made in: better conditions for cycling, integration of cycling with public transport, stronger land use planning and restraint of private car use.

To test what effect such an alternative future might hold, a second, ‘High Shift to Cycling’ scenario was developed by the authors, based on cities in each region reaching levels of cycling comparable to that already achieved in many cities. In the USA, for instance, this would mean around 9% of trips being made by bike by 2030, of which almost half would come from an increase in electric bike usage alone.


The effect of a ‘High Shift to Cycling’ scenario would be to cut carbon dioxide emissions worldwide from urban transport by 46% by 2050, with cycling alone contributing 10% – over a fifth of the total savings on carbon dioxide emissions. The remainder comes from changes to engine efficiency and a shift to public transport. Savings of around USD 25 trillion could be achieved through obviating the need for new major highways, parking facilities and the maintenance of existing infrastructure to accommodate forecast growth in road traffic.

UCI, the European Cyclists’ Federation and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association jointly commissioned the project, written by the University of California, Davis and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

Paris Climate Change Conference

The twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) and the eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) will take place from 30 November to 11 December 2015, in Paris, France.

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