Substituting a bike for a car just once a day reduces an average citizen’s carbon emissions from transport by 67%, according to new research.
The survey which was an in-depth study of commuting data from more than 3,800 people across seven cities and led by University of Oxford transport professor Christian Brand, found that changes in citizens’ transport habits can significantly cut their emissions.
In particular, the paper found that individuals can significantly cut their carbon footprint by swapping the car for a bike or walking when on trips for recreational purposes like shopping or social visits.
As for commuting, if 10% of the population were to replace one car trip each day with a bike trip, overall transport emissions would be expected to decrease by about 10%. Alternatively, if the same percentage of the population replaced one car trip with one trip by public transport, individual transport emissions would be 19% lower.
The survey, which ran over two years, followed the movement patterns of individuals in Antwerp, Barcelona, London, Rome, Vienna, Zurich, and Orebro in Sweden. Participants completed almost 10,000 detailed one-day travel diaries logging over 34,200 trips.
It concluded that cycling was responsible for less than 5% of public transport emissions overall. While journeys by bike don’t emit greenhouse gases, researchers did factor in emissions from manufacturing and disposing of bikes and dietary changes on the part of cyclists as a result of more physical activity.
The report concludes:
“Promoting active travel should be a cornerstone of strategies to meet net-zero carbon targets, particularly in urban areas, while also improving public health and quality of urban life.’
“Transport is one of the most challenging sectors to decarbonise due to its heavy fossil fuel use and reliance on carbon-intensive infrastructure – such as roads, airports and the vehicles themselves – and the way it embeds car-dependent lifestyles. One way to reduce transport emissions relatively quickly, and potentially globally, is to swap cars for cycling, e-biking and walking – active travel, as it’s called.”