The world could achieve an annual CO2 emission reduction of almost 700 million tons – the equivalent of Canada’s annual emissions – if everybody used a bicycle for daily trips, as the Dutch do. That is the remarkable conclusion of a Danish study published by the Communications Earth and Environment journal.
In the Netherlands, cycling is a way of life. In cities like Amsterdam and The Hague, more than 70% of daily trips are made by bike. Dutch people cycle an average of 2,6 kilometers each per day. Projected on the entire world, annual global carbon emissions would drop by 686 million tons, the study suggests.
Benefits of cycling
“The significant health and environmental benefits of increasing bicycle use suggest an urgent need to promote sustainable bicycle use,” the authors say. Cycling has numerous advantages.
On an individual level, it is a great way to stay fit and healthy, staving off the chronic diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle. People who cycle to work have a 45% lower risk of developing cancer and a 46% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Apart from that, cycling is great for the environment. The transport sector accounts for a quarter of global fuel-related greenhouse gas emissions. Cars and trucks contribute to air pollution, clogging the air with toxic chemicals and gases.
According to the study, bicycle production has ballooned over the last 60 years, but it doesn’t mean more people are cycling. Today, bike journeys account for just five percent of daily trips worldwide.
Of course, not everybody lives in cycle-friendly surroundings, the authors of the study recognize. Still, they plead for an urgent expansion of cycling infrastructure worldwide, referring to successful initiatives in cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam.
Bikes will be key
“A worldwide pro-bicycle policy and infrastructure development enabled modal shift like the Netherlands and Denmark can lead to significant untapped climate and health benefits,” the study continues.
Professor Gang Liu of the Department of Green Technology at the University of Southern Denmark, who is the lead author of the study, says the findings demonstrate that bikes will be key in reducing the world’s carbon emissions from transportation.
“Addressing such gigantic challenges requires not only technology-side strategies, such as lightweight design or electrification,” Liu told Agence France-Presse, “but also needs demand-side strategies, such as alternative mobility patterns — sharing mobility, mobility on demand, and ride-sharing — and transport mode change, such as reducing short-distance car use by cycling.”