Nature and Biodiversity

Why we must leverage the economic benefits of cycling

This study shows the profound economic benefits of cycling for developing countries like India and China

This study shows the profound economic benefits of cycling for developing countries like India and China. Image: REUTERS/Jose Miguel Gomez

Kat Kerlin
Public Information Representative, UC Davis
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This article is published in collaboration with Futurity.

A global shift to increased cycling and electric biking could cut energy use and carbon dioxide emissions from urban transportation by up to 10 percent by 2050 compared to current estimates.

The new report also finds that the shift could save society more than $24 trillion.

“This is the first report that quantifies the potential carbon dioxide and cost savings associated with a worldwide shift toward much greater use of cycling in urban areas,” says report coauthor Lew Fulton, co-director of the STEPS Program at the University of California, Davis, 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.”

Currently, cycling accounts for about 6 percent of urban trips worldwide, more than half of which occurs in China, Japan, and a few European countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark. In the United States and Canada, only 1 percent of urban trips are by bicycle.

According to the study, the right mix of investments and public policies can bring bikes and e-bikes to cover up to 14 percent of urban miles traveled by 2050—ranging from about 25 percent in the Netherlands and China to about 7 percent in the US and Canada.

The potential is enormous considering that typically more than half of all urban trips worldwide are less than 6 miles and potentially could be done by bike.

“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,” says coauthor Jacob Mason, transport research and evaluation manager for the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy in New York.

“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.”

The Union Cycliste Internationale, the European Cyclists’ Federation, and the Bicycle Suppliers Association supported the research.

Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Kat Kerlin is a Public Information Representative at UC Davis and specialises in environmental science research.

Image: Colombian students ride bicycles during in Bogota. REUTERS/Jose Miguel Gomez.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Nature and BiodiversitySupply Chains and TransportationGlobal CooperationEnergy Transition
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