Biking – the way to go for Net Zero

Transport emissions are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in cities. In New York, 23% of emissions are from transport; in Mexico City, the figure is 45%; and across C40 cities, transport accounts for an average of 30% of cities’ emissions.

Around the world, outdoor air pollution kills around 4.6 million people each year, and many more suffer from serious related conditions such as premature birth, low birth weight, and asthma.2 Traffic is the biggest source of urban air pollution, including non-greenhouse gas pollutants. Globally it is responsible for up to a quarter of particulate matter in cities’ air.

Walking and cycling are the cleanest ways to get around a city, and both can have enormous benefits for health, greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, road safety, and equity.

Some of the benefits of cities with fewer and cleaner cars on the road are:

  • Quicker journey times. For trips within cities, cycling and (for shorter journeys) walking is often the fastest way to travel.
  • Exercise. Boosting walking and cycling as a way to tackle ‘inactivity crisis.’
  • Low cost. Walking is free, and cycling is cheaper than travel by car or public transport.
  • More walking and cycling leads to increased footfall for retail businesses. More walkable areas can boost local employment, footfall, and retail sales, and increase retail rents by as much as 20%.
  • Active travel leads to less depression, anxiety, stress, obesity and chronic disease. Lack of physical activity results in physical and mental health problems, lost productivity, higher absenteeism rates, and higher healthcare costs. It kills more people today than smoking.
  • On average, private cars are parked for over 95% of the time.11 Car parking is a profoundly inefficient use of valuable space in cities. Cities including New York, London, Paris, Vienna, Boston, Houston and Hong Kong have parking coverage of between 15% and 30%.
  • Fewer cars can lead to less crime. When a city street goes car-free, crime has dropped by up to 74%.

Cities can benefit from the lessons and experience from leading cities around the world. Priority actions for cities include:

  • Implement transit-oriented development. These are people-friendly urban planning policies that encourage dense, mixed-use development around transit stations to encourage public transport use, walking and cycling.
  • Build infrastructure and implement schemes to increase the rates of walking, cycling, and public and shared transport use for all citizens.
  • Build electric vehicle charging infrastructure and incentivize the uptake of electric vehicles to transition the vehicles left on the roads away from fossil fuels.
  • Collaborate with suppliers, fleet operators and businesses to accelerate the shift to zero-emission vehicles and reduce fleet vehicle miles. Lead by example by procuring zero-emission buses and vehicles for city fleets as quickly as possible.

Cover photo by Igor Voronetski on Unsplash

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