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Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Dummies – Just Cycle More Often


12 Dec 2011


Climate & Environment

New Study Investigates Potential of Cycling to Reduce Emissions

EU wide reductions of GHG (greenhouse gas emissions) are under scrutiny by many critics as the progress and actual results seem to fall short of the goals set by the EU this year. Recent reports affirm that the EU will not achieve the reduction of transport emissions by 60% between 1990 and 2050 through technology alone.

An interesting take on the subject is revealed by a recent study authored by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), which has quantified emissions savings of cycling compared with other modes of transport. Even taking into account the production, maintenance and fuel [food] related to bicycle use, emissions from cycling were over 10 times lower  than those stemming from the passenger car. 

Comparing cars, buses, electric assisted bicycles and normal bicycles, ECF investigated how cycling could help the EU achieve its 2050 GHG reduction targets for Transport. According to the study, if EU citizens were to cycle as much as the Danes in 2000, (an average of 2.6km a day), it would help the EU meet more than a quarter of the targeted emission reductions for the transport sector.

“Cycle 5kms a day and we reach 50% of the target,” notes the Author Benoit Blondel, ECF Environment and Health Policy Officer,  adding that “the potential for cycling to achieve these targets is huge. And with such little effort. Getting more people on bikes is going to be a lot cheaper than say getting more electric cars on the road”. 

The study also reinforced the European Environment Agency recent assessment that improvements in technology and fuel efficiency alone will not allow the EU to achieve its target of reducing transport emissions by 60%.

Blondel comments: “If we’re serious about meeting these targets we’re going to have to change our behaviour. It’s not about moving less. It’s about the way we move, and the transport choices governments make available”

Key findings include:

• Emissions from cycling are over 10 times lower than those stemming from the passenger car, even taking into account the additional dietary intake of a cyclist compared with that of a motorised transport user. 

• E-bikes, despite their electric assistance, have emissions in the same range as ordinary bicycles. Considering E-bikes allows for 56% longer daily commutes and substitutes the car for 39% of trips, they have a huge potential to further reduce transport emissions.

• Bicycle-share schemes also have the potential to reduce further emissions, considering it is a substitute for motorised transport for 50-75% of the users.

• If levels of cycling in the EU-27 were equivalent to those found in Denmark in 2000, bicycle use would achieve 26% of the 2050 GHG target set for the transport sector

• With EU crude oil imports at 955 million barrels per year, EU citizens cycling at Danish levels would reduce EU oil importations by close to 10%.

• Achieving the EU’s objectives won’t be met via technology and will require ambitious plans which foresee an EU-wide modal shift away from individual motorized transport. A combination of improvement measures (i.e. more efficient (use of) vehicles, lower carbon-intense fuels, more efficient use of the transport system) will only deliver a 20% decrease by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.  

Notes to the editor: About the European Cyclists’ Federation

Founded in 1983, the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) is the umbrella federation of the national cyclists’ associations in Europe, reinforced by similar organisations from other parts of the world. On behalf of our members, we are pledged to ensure that bicycle use achieves its fullest potential so as to bring about sustainable mobility and public well-being. To achieve these aims, ECF seeks to change attitudes, policies and budget allocations at the European level. ECF stimulates and organises the exchange of information and expertise on bicycle related transport policies and strategies as well as the work of the cyclists’ movement.

• For InfoGraphics and pictures please visit:

• For More Information, Interviews etc. please contact Communications Officer, Julian Ferguson: +32 2 880 92 84

• For a copy of the study in English:

Press Releases ( can also be found in:

• Polish Press Release_PL

• Italian Press Release_IT

• German Press Release_DE

• French Press Release_FR

• Spanish Press Release_ES



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