Cycling, e-biking and walking can help tackle the climate crisis, according to a new study led by the University of Oxford’s Transport Studies Unit. “Our findings suggest that, even if not all car trips could be substituted by bicycle trips, the potential for decreasing emissions is huge,” said co-author Dr Audrey de Nazelle.
The study followed nearly 2,000 people in seven European cities (Antwerp, Barcelona, London, Rome, Vienna, Zurich and Orebro in Sweden), collecting data on daily travel behaviour and journey purpose.
The team then performed statistical modelling to assess how changes in active mobility, the ‘main mode’ of daily travel, and cycling frequency would influence mobility-related CO2 emissions.
Those who already cycled were found to have 84% lower CO2 emissions from all daily travel than non-cyclists.
The greatest benefits resulting from switching to active modes of transport from driving were for business travel. Strikingly, this was followed by social and leisure trips and only then commuting.
Lead researcher Dr Christian Brand, from the University of Oxford, said: “We found that those who switch just one trip per day from car driving to cycling reduce their carbon footprint by about 0.5 tonnes over a year, representing a substantial share of average per capita CO2 emissions.
“If just 10% of the population were to change travel behaviour, the emissions savings would be around 4% of lifecycle CO2 emissions from all car travel.”
He added: “A typical response to the climate crisis is to ‘do something’, such as planting more trees, or switching to electric vehicles. While these are important and effective, they are neither sufficient nor fast enough to meet our ambitious climate targets.
“Doing more of a good thing combined with doing less of a bad thing – and doing it now – is much more compliant with a ‘net zero’ pathway and preserving our planet’s and our own futures. Switching from car to active mobility is one thing to do, which would make a real difference, and we show here how good this can be in cities.”