Following Denmark's example on cycling could help EU meet a quarter of its CO2 reduction target, says ECF

Study shows potential impact of people elsewhere in EU cycling same average distances as Danes did in 2000

by Simon_MacMichael   December 12, 2011  

ECF Greenhouse Gas Emisssions Reduction report

The European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) says that if levels of cycling throughout the European Union (EU) were the same as those seen in Denmark in 2000, the EU would be able to satisfy more up to a quarter of the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that it is aiming to achieve by 2050.

The finding comes in a report published by the ECF called Cycle more often 2 cool down the planet! Quantifying Co2 savings of cycling, and follows a recent announcement by the European Environmental Agency that technological advances and improvements to technology on their own would not enable the EU to meet the 60 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that it has targeted.

The ECF compared cycling on pedal cycles with other forms of transport including electric-assisted bikes, buses and cars, and found that once the impact of production and maintenance as well as fuel – food, in the case of cyclists – was taken into account, cycling produced emissions that were ten times lower than those resulting form the use of cars.

As a result, if citizens throughout Europe cycled the same distance each day as the average Dane did in 2000 – 2.6 kilometres – the EU would be able to meet up to one fourth of its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target by 2050, says the ECF.

The actual percentage varies between 12 per cent and 26 per cent depending on the mode of transport replaced, with switching to bikes from private cars representing the largest potential gain.

The report’s author, Benoit Blondel, Environment and Health Policy Officer at the ECF, said: “Cycle 5kms a day and we reach 50% of the target. The potential for cycling to achieve these targets is huge. And with such little effort. Getting more people on bikes is going to be a lot cheaper than say getting more electric cars on the road”.

According to the ECF, among the key findings of the report are:

  • “Emissions from cycling are over 10 times lower than those stemming from the passenger car, even taking into account the additional dietary intake of a cyclist compared with that of a motorised transport user.
  • “E-bikes, despite their electric assistance, have emissions in the same range as ordinary bicycles. Considering E-bikes allows for 56% longer daily commutes and substitutes the car for 39% of trips, they have a huge potential to further reduce transport emissions.
  • “Bicycle-share schemes also have the potential to reduce further emissions, considering it is a substitute for motorised transport for 50-75% of the users.
  • “If levels of cycling in the EU-27 were equivalent to those found in Denmark in 2000, bicycle use would achieve 26% of the 2050 GHG target set for the transport sector.
  • “With EU crude oil imports at 955 million barrels per year, EU citizens cycling at Danish levels would reduce EU oil importations by close to 10%.
  • “Achieving the EU’s objectives won’t be met via technology and will require ambitious plans which foresee an EU-wide modal shift away from individual motorized transport. A combination of improvement measures (i.e. more efficient (use of) vehicles, lower carbon-intense fuels, more efficient use of the transport system) will only deliver a 20% decrease by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.”

Last week, it was announced that CTC chief executive Kevin Mayne would be leaving to join the ECF as Director of Development.

3 user comments

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This is just one of the benefits of getting more people cycling. Why don't governments push cycling more? Denmark and the Netherlands have worked out the solutions, so they can just copy them. I really don't understand the attitude of the UK government. They seem to have dropped support for cycling as some kind of frivolous luxury, when the DfT's figures show that investing in cycling has a far greater return than any other form of transport. So much for Cameron being a cyclist.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1332 posts]
12th December 2011 - 11:58

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cat1commuter wrote:
Why don't governments push cycling more?

Put simply, money and votes. They're terrified of upsetting drivers AKA voters and the car manufacturers and associated businesses (distribution, servicing, fuel, parts etc as well as assembly).

I recommend you read this book: http://road.cc/content/blog/47292

The fact that the bicycle is so widely used for everyday transport in the Netherlands and Denmark, particularly Copenhagen, is really down to planning in the last few decades. See http://www.copenhagenize.com/ and http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2011/12/from-car-centric-to-people-friendly....

The fact that Cameron and Boris Johnson can be described as 'cyclists' has absolutely no relevance to government transport policy whatsoever. Carolin Lucas's comments on the 2011 Autumn Statement may help:

http://www.carolinelucas.com/cl/media/osbornes-backwards-budget-is-formu...

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posted by Simon E [1912 posts]
12th December 2011 - 21:20

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The headline and initial paragraphs of this story really should be corrected to avoid misleading readers.

The impression is given that the EU reduction target referred to is for all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

In fact, it's for emissions from transport only, as we eventually learn in the fourth of the ECF bullet points quoted.

Transport accounts for around a quarter of the EU's total GHG emissions (24.3% in 2009). The target is that by 2050 transport emissions should be 60% less than what they were in 1990. Accounting for emissions growth since 1990, the reduction required is now 68%.

So, if by great good fortune we end up with as much cycling throughout the EU by 2050 as there is in Denmark today, and if that modal shift is all from private car rather than from public transport, we're talking a maximum reduction in current EU greenhouse gas emissions of 26% x 68% x 24.3% = 4.3%.

Significant, nevertheless. And given the dismal outcome of the recent Durban climate talks, we'll need every little reduction we can get.

trevorparsons's picture

posted by trevorparsons [13 posts]
16th December 2011 - 3:23

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