Cycling activist groups tell COP26 that boosting cycling reduces carbon emissions


Sixty-four cycling advocacy organizations led by the European Cycling Federation (ECF) submitted a letter to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) stating that “world leaders must commit to increasing cycling levels to reduce carbon emissions and quickly meet global climate goals. and efficiently. ”

The letter says:

“We, the undersigned 64 organizations, urge all governments and leaders attending the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow to commit to dramatically increasing the number of people who cycle in their countries. . Governments can do this by building more high-quality cycling infrastructure, integrating cycling with public transport, improving road safety, and implementing policies that encourage individuals and businesses to replace car travel with cycling and other modes such as walking and public transport. , national and local strategies to achieve net zero carbon goals. ”


It’s something we’ve been saying about Treehugger for some time, noting that bikes aren’t just transportation, they’re climate action. I wrote in a 2018 article: “If a fraction of the attention and money were spent on them instead of self-driving electric cars, they could make a real dent in the carbon footprint of transportation. ”

“There is no conceivable way for governments to cut CO₂ emissions fast enough to avoid the worst of the climate crisis without much more cycling,” said Jim Warren, CEO of ECF, in the statement. press announcing the letter. “The devastating effects of accelerating global warming should be clear to everyone, and increasing levels of cycling is the best way to quickly reduce carbon emissions from large-scale transportation.”


Henk Swarttouw, president of the ECF, wrote a letter to the Financial Times, laying out the case of the bikes, noting that it is faster and cheaper than any other change. He also complains about the emphasis on electric cars and charging stations:

“However, even in the best of cases, it will take at least 20 years to phase out the current fleet of internal combustion engine cars and even longer for trucks and trucks – not to mention the deployment of charging infrastructure. . Global car sales are steadily increasing and less than 5% of cars sold today are electrified. There is a quick and relatively easy way to start reducing our transportation emissions. In Europe, half of all car trips are less than 5 km. A third are shorter Most people will be able to cover these distances by bicycle or, for shorter distances, simply on foot. cycling rather than by car saves immediate savings on average 150 grams of CO2 emissions.

Federal Road Administration

In the United States, the distances are a little longer. The Federal Highway Association’s National Household Travel Survey found that 45.6% of trips were less than three miles, an easy bike ride, and 59.5% less than six miles, maybe a little. for a bike but a breeze on an electric bike. A ridiculous 21.4% of car trips are less than one mile. That’s why we wrote that bicycles and e-bikes are the fastest journey to zero carbon, asking who needs a car for that? There is no reason why many of them could not be done by bicycle, if there was a safe place to ride.

This is why Swarttouw continues: “However, the main factor preventing people from cycling and walking is concern for road safety. This is why our governments must provide a safe and efficient infrastructure for cycling in order to win quickly. ”


The 64 cycling organizations have a list of suggestions for increasing cycling levels in their letter to COP26:

  • Promote cycling in all its forms, including cycle tourism, sport cycling, bicycle sharing, going to work or school and for exercise
  • Recognize cycling as a climate solution, establish a clear link between how an increase in bicycle trips and a decrease in private car trips reduce CO₂ emissions
  • Create and fund national cycling strategies and collect cycling data to find out where improvements can be made to infrastructure and usage
  • Focus investments on building safe, high-quality cycling infrastructure and incentives for historically marginalized cycling communities
  • Provide direct incentives for individuals and businesses to switch from cars to bicycles for more of their daily commute
  • Build synergies with public transport and promote combined mobility solutions for a multimodal ecosystem capable of covering all user needs without depending on a private car
  • Collectively commit to a global goal of higher levels of cycling. More cycling in a handful of countries will not be enough to reduce global CO₂ emissions. All countries must contribute, and these efforts must be monitored at the United Nations level.

The signatories conclude: “There is no conceivable way or governments to cut CO₂ emissions fast enough to avoid the worst of the climate crisis without much more cycling. Cycling is one of the best solutions we already have to ensure that our planet is habitable for all generations. to come.”

Treehugger has long complained that electric cars suck all the air out of the room and that we need to focus more on bicycles, which can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and significantly reduce emissions from transportation.


Every time I write about it, I get complaints and comments like this: “Some e-bike / bike advocates make the ‘perfect’ the enemy of the good. It would be nice if everyone could super light right away, but not everyone works in a nearby office with many stores also nearby. It takes work to create a car-free society. ”

Yes, it takes work. Dealing with climate change takes a lot of work. Not everyone has to drive, and electric cars are part of the answer. But as the signatories of the letter, we are short on time and cannot wait for decades when we can promote bicycles now.

“Our world is on fire. We urgently need to take advantage of the solutions offered by cycling by radically increasing its use,” reads the open letter from the ECF. “What we need now is for governments to commit politically and financially to safer and more integrated cycling that is equitable for all who live in our countries, cities and regions.”

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