Getting more people cycling for transport instead of driving could save the world up to $25 trillion in infrastructure costs by 2050, a report has found.
The amount of money that could be saved, nearly twice the USA’s GDP, was estimated by the UCI, who joined the European Cyclists’ Federation and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association in commissioning the project, written by the University of California, Davis and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.
Successfully promoting cycling could also save up to 10% of global urban transport emissions of carbon dioxide.
"Cycling is a crucial means of transport for millions of people around the world,” said UCI President Brian Cookson.
“We are delighted to have co-funded this report which demonstrates that, if more governments followed good examples like the Netherlands and Denmark to make their cities better for cycling, we’d see huge increases in the quality of life in those cities, lower carbon emissions and reduced costs of transport.”
The study analysed almost 1000 cities around the world to establish, for the first time, existing levels of cycling around the world. The authors found that on average 6% of all travel was made by bike, ranging from around 1% in North America and Australia to around 25% in many cities in the Netherlands, China and Japan.
By 2030, given stronger policy measures, cycling could reach 11% of global travel demand, and 14% by 2050, saving billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in the process.
A ‘High Shift to Cycling’ scenario was developed by the authors, based on cities in each region reaching levels of cycling comparable to that already achieved in many cities. In the USA, for instance, this would mean around 9% of trips being made by bike by 2030, of which almost half would come from an increase in electric bike usage alone.
The effect of a ‘High Shift to Cycling’ scenario would be to cut carbon dioxide emissions worldwide from urban transport by 46% by 2050, with cycling alone contributing 10% - over a fifth of the total savings on carbon dioxide emissions.
The remainder comes from changes to engine efficiency and a shift to public transport.
Savings of around $25 trillion could be achieved through obviating the need for new major highways, parking facilities and the maintenance of existing infrastructure to accommodate forecast growth in road traffic.
Electric bikes already form a very significant part of the market in countries with high cycle use, such as the Netherlands, Germany and China. They are often used to make longer trips, thereby competing with the car or public transport options.
As part of the report the authors set out the following recommendations to achieve a global shift to cycling:
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.