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Shifting 10% Of Urban Trips To Cycling Could Save $24 Trillion By 2050

One key component in the struggle to keep greenhouse gas emissions down is low-carbon transportation, and while there are many high-tech solutions at play in the search for solutions, there is at least one that requires little more than a willingness to change our habits. Well, that and a set of wheels and some physical effort. That climate solution is a decidedly old-school one, and is as simple as riding a bike.

Boosting cycling in cities has been linked to better quality of life, lower costs (both to the individual and to the community), increased local economic activity, reduced CO2 emissions, and better personal and economic health. And that’s not even taking into consideration the amount of urban space that can be reclaimed by shifting to a more bike-centric model. But just how much of a shift to cycling would it take to make a sizable difference.? As it turns out, not much.

According to a new report out from The Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP), by adopting bicycles and electric bikes for just 10% of urban trips, it would save some $24 trillion between now and 2050, as well as reducing GHG emissions from motor vehicles by about 11%.


That’s a significant percentage, considering that about 6% of urban trips are already being taken by bicycles, and that a much larger percentage could be achieved through a mix of investments and policies. The report, A Global High Shift Cycling Scenario, suggests that bikes and e-bikes can cover up to 14% of urban miles by 2050 with “the right mix” of policies and investments, with some countries, such as the Netherlands and China, being able to shift up to 25% of their “urban kilometers” to pedal-powered transportation.

“This is the first report that quantifies the potential CO2 and cost savings associated with a world-wide shift toward much greater use of cycling in urban areas. 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.” – Lew Fulton, report co-author and co-director of the STEPS Program within the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis

According to Climate Central, while “other scientists unaffiliated with the report said its methods are solid and shows what role bicycles can play in a warming world,” at least one stressed that while the report itself was valuable, its conclusions should be taken “with a grain of salt” because its calculations of emissions reduction may be “overly aggressive,” and that differing cultural considerations about biking were not included in it.

“Going down the path of the high-shift cycling scenario beckons a larger call toward culture, funding and societal characteristics. Bicycling has widely varying social connotations in some cultures and painting it as a silver bullet that is irrespective of these cultures leaves a lot of distance to cover there.” – Kevin Krizek, director of UC-Boulder’s Environmental Design Building program

Get the full scoop, and download the report, from ITDP: How Cycling Can Save Cities Money and Emissions

Image: ITDP

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Written By

Derek lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, fungi, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves fresh roasted chiles, peanut butter on everything, and buckets of coffee. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!


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