Follow the Dutch when it comes to cycling and cutting down CO2 emissions


The Dutch (as here in Amsterdam) are avid cyclists and travel an average of 2.6km per day by bicycle. Photo: AFP

A recent study suggests that if everyone adopted the same cycling habits as the Dutch, CO2 emissions could be reduced by nearly 700 million tonnes per year.

To put that into perspective, that figure alone exceeds the annual carbon footprint of Britain or Canada.

This new study, from the University of Southern Denmark and published in the journal Communications Earth and Environment, provides more motivation than ever for the people of the world to get into the saddle, on a daily basis – like the Dutch and the Danes are already doing on a massive scale.

The theory is based on the fact that Dutch people cycle an average of 2.6km per day.

If this way of life and transportation was adopted universally – instead of taking the car or even public transport for short trips – CO2 emissions could be reduced by some 686 million tonnes per year worldwide, which is considerable.

And while the Dutch are obviously an example to follow, the Danes are doing a pretty good job too. On their scale, they each travel an average of 1.6km per day, which when scaled to the world's population, could lead to a reduction of 414 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

The study assumes that almost one in two daily trips – whether to work, to take children to school or to go shopping – is less than 3.5km. This means that, in most cases, these trips could be made by bicycle.

However, with a few exceptions – including the Netherlands – cycling accounts for less than 5% of daily trips worldwide. The benefits of cycling for the environment are now well known, but it is still necessary to implement the right infrastructure and practices.

The Netherlands is a real model for all those seeking to promote cycling today. But the country has given itself the means to achieve this, and it has taken time.

In 40 years, the Netherlands has succeeded in building the infrastructure necessary for the proper development of cycling in the city, thanks in particular to large networks of cycle paths, the establishment of pedestrian zones and dedicated parking facilities.

Beyond the simple figures – which speak for themselves – many of the world's countries are totally unsuitable for cycling today. It will take real political consciousness and drive, and many years before the necessary infrastructure is deployed and adopted by populations.

Countries will need to plan for the construction of appropriate bicycle paths, for example, as well as education and the promotion of a pro-bike culture. – AFP Relaxnews

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