February 11, 2021
Active Travel

Study Finds Cycling, E-bikes, Walking Help Cut CO2 Emissions

By Jonathan Oldaker

It may seem obvious, but the potential active travel – cycling, walking, or e-biking – has to decrease carbon dioxide emissions is “huge” according to a recent study.

Although widely considered the most sustainable way to travel, little research has been conducted into active transport’s concrete effects on CO2 output.

Led by the University of Oxford’s Transport Studies Unit, the report found that shifting to modes of active transport could save up to a quarter of personal carbon dioxide emissions.


Global impact

Across seven different European cities, the study tracked 2,000 people, collecting data on travel behaviours and journey purpose.

Statistical modelling was then used to show how changes in active mobility – the ‘main mode’ of daily travel – and cycling frequency impacted mobility-related carbon dioxide emissions.

The research factored in where their home or work location was, socio-economic factors, as well as whether they had access to public transport networks.


Small changes, big impact

So how much difference can a switch to active travel make?

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.”

Just making a small change has been shown to affect a substantial difference in emissions. If you were to swap out just one car journey a week for cycling/walking, your reduction of CO2 output might be a lot more than you’d think.


Cycling already mitigating factor

The study also found that for those people who were already cycling, their carbon emissions from daily travel were 84% lower than those who didn’t cycle.

But it’s not simply about adding more cycling to your lifestyle, rather the report focuses on minimising existing high-emission activities, such as car journeys.

Dr Christian Brand added, “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.”

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