The European Cycling Federation (ECF) are on a mission to lower emissions, and they hope to reach their goals by encouraging the use of two wheels powered by pedals, instead of four wheels powered by a combustible gasoline engine.
With the mission statement, “Cycle More Often 2 Cool Down the Planet,” the ECF has recently completed a study on C02 emissions, noting not only how riding a bike can help reach these goals, but also track the impact of the production, maintenance, and notably the fuel—as in the food a cyclist needs to eat—of bicycles.
The study found that cycling does have a significant impact on C02 production, with emissions from cycling being greater than 10 times lower than those stemming from the use of passenger cars; even when taking into account the added dietary needs of a cyclist, as compared to an automobile’s driver.
Additionally, the study showed that a bike need not be pedal powered either, as e-bikes, despite their electronic assistance—and reliance on an external energy source—actually have emissions in the same range of an ordinary bicycle. This is in part because e-bikes allow up to 56-percent longer daily commutes than pedal bicycles, and yet are still vastly more efficient in terms of energy usage over a car.
ECF notes that concerns remain, including the fact that Europe and the United States are increasing bicycle usage, other nations are adding cars. The biggest shift, of course, is China, where bicycle commuting is being replaced by automobile use. “This is a big concern,” Benoît Blondel, ECF policy officer for Health & Environment, told BikeRadar. “It should be remembered that developing economies transport emissions are growing at a faster rate than developed economies of 2.8-percent per year.”
Blondel adds that many urban residents in developing countries and emerging economies rely on cycling but with economic growth, the bicycle’s modal share is being threatened. “Our report shows that cycling bears a relevant potential in low carbon transport scenarios and that it should be a key element in the transition of transport policies to sustainable mobility,” said Blondel. “Therefore, the protection –and revitalization- of cycling in developing and emerging countries, as well as the promotion of cycling elsewhere are essential if we’re going to reduce global transport emissions.”
There is also the issue of bike production. The vast majority of the world’s bicycles are manufactured in China. Blondel has clarified for BikeRadar how, and what the study takes into account. “In this particular study, GHG linked to the production of bikes and cars has been considered, but shipping has not,” said Blondel, noting however that even with the distance, bicycles aren’t the tipping point in efforts to be more CO2 emission conscience. “With the bicycle weighing about 60 times less, and a volume when shipped about 20 times less, shipping would not only add to the C02e grams the bicycle saves compared to the car, but would also increase the CO2e ratio between the car and bicycle. In other words, our report, although impressive, ultimately show conservative figures.”