A radical worldwide shift towards the use of bicycles as an urban transport mode could save society $24 trillion, says a recent report.

#smartcity: Bicycle use could generate massive cost savings worldwide

The New York-based Institute for Transportation & Development Policy, in conjunction with the University of California (UC), Davis, has published a report entitled ‘A Global High Shift Cycling Scenario: The Potential for Dramatically Increasing Bicycle and E-bike Use in Cities Around The World, with Estimated Energy, CO2 , and Cost Impacts’, which urges city authorities to promote the introduction of systems that will encourage people to cycle. In addition to the environmental impact – an 11% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, according to the ITDP/CU-Davis estimates – a dramatic increase in cycling could, argue the authors, save society an aggregate $24 trillion by 2050. In order to get to this figure, the researchers took into account a number of public and private variables, including the impact on the healthcare budget and cities’ running costs. “Cities could make considerable savings on infrastructure simply by reducing the demand for vehicle parking space,” argues Lewis Fulton, from the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC-Davis, who co-authored the report.Statistiques sur l'utilisation du vélo en ville

Tables above: In grey, the percentage of urban trips that will be made by bike in the year indicated if the current – Business as Usual (BAU) – policy approach is maintained. In green, High Shift Cycling (HSC) indicates the percentage of urban transport that could be attained by the bicycle if there is a radical change, including the widespread adoption of bicycle/e-bike sharing.


Creating cycle lanes and bike parks

DCreating infrastructure for cyclists means first of all increasing the number of cycle lanes in cities, plus the number of bike racks and bike parks. It also means setting up bike-sharing systems.  However, beyond introducing ‘pro-bike’ city infrastructure, there is also a little matter of urban culture. ‟If you want to increase the ratio of bikes per inhabitant you need to show cyclists that they can ride their bikes safely. Then you need to create a ripple effect. Take Paris, for example, where they’ve installed a vast Vélib’ sharing network that has helped enormously to promote wider use of bicycles in the French capital,” Lewis Fulton points out, adding: “In the same vein, closing off certain streets to cars at the weekend in order to encourage people to cycle from A to B in the city seems to be an excellent initiative.

Cyclists queuing on the Dronning Louises Bro bridge in Copenhagen in the rush hour

Emerging cities showing the pioneer spirit

When you think about the iconic bicycle-friendly city, it’s generally Amsterdam and Copenhagen that spring to mind. However, it would be a mistake to think that European countries – apart from the Netherlands and Denmark that is – are models when it comes to urban bicycle transport. The ITDP/UC-Davis report says that in France, for example, only 2% of all city trips are made by bike. The United States and Canada, where cycling as an urban transport mode accounts for only 1% of journeys, are hardly paragons of virtue either.  However, Lewis Fulton and his co-authors highlight the progress made by a number of cities in emerging countries. One example is Colombian capital Bogota, where it only took a few years to the bicycle’s share of transport modes to rise from virtually nil to 5%, and it should, according to the researchers’ forecasts, rise fairly quickly to 10%, largely due to the key positive role being played by Bogota mayor Enrique Peñalosa in installing cycle-friendly infrastructure in the capital.

By Pauline Canteneur