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Ride A Bike, Save $100 Trillion: The Global High Shift Report

Intuitively, people concerned about the environment have reasoned that riding a bike or taking public transit offer more ecological benefits than driving a car, especially when they’re traveling alone. Now the University of California and the New York-based international nonprofit Institute for Transportation and Development Policy have provided some heady numbers in their Global High Shift Scenario to back that statement up.

Released at a meeting today in advance of the September 23 Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in New York, the global high shift report (funded by the Ford, ClimateWorks, and Hewlett Foundations) says that public and private spending will drop by $100 trillion between now and 2050 if the world’s cities would expand public transportation, walking, and cycling as modes of getting places.

En masse, individuals willing to make this lifestyle change could cut carbon dioxide emissions from urban transport by about 40%, reducing CO2 emissions by 1,700 megatons per year in 2050. Global High Shift Scenario results (ITDP)Needless to say, the authors strongly urge governments to support this modal shift by expanding rail and bus transport and improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Says Michael Replogle, study co-author and policy director at ITDP:

Woman bike commuter in New York making a left turn (“Transportation, driven by rapid-growth in car use, has been the fastest growing source of CO2 in the world. An affordable but largely overlooked way to cut that pollution is to give people clean options to use public transportation, walking, and cycling. This expands mobility options, especially for the poor, and curbs air pollution from traffic.”

In many ways, structural change that results in production and use of less energy-intense modes trumps energy-efficiency improvement with respect to climate issues. The report does not specifically address use of pedaled vs. hybrid or electric bicycles, but the latter could improve the picture.

The REmap 2030 report from the International Renewable Energy Agency in New York points out that “Electric two-wheelers (e-bicycles, e-scooters and e-motorcycles) are rapidly gaining ground,” with sales in Asia-Pacific reaching 44 million in 2012. Pike Research, which did the estimating, says that by 2018, China, far and and away the world’s largest market for electric bikes, will have 355 million electric two-wheelers—one vehicle for every four people in the country. Their use should alleviate some of the pressing air pollution problems in the nation’s larger cities. Electric bike commuter (Optibike, via

Elsewhere, sales of electric bikes are also up. About 25% of Germans, for example, have plans to purchase e-bikes. IRENA says that consumers often go for these products regardless of cost because of their convenience. Also, the support from an electric motor saves drivers money and enables more individuals to commute by bike, because most won’t need to shower when they get to work.

And we should also remember that electrification is a good option for local delivery trucks and buses, too!

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Written By

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."


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