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Go Green with Cycling

Key Points

Cycling has a carbon footprint of about 21g of CO2 per kilometre. That’s less than walking or getting the bus and less than a tenth the emissions of driving

About three-quarters of cycling’s greenhouse gas emissions occur when producing the extra food required to “fuel” cycling, while the rest comes from manufacturing the bicycle

Electric bikes have an even lower carbon footprint than conventional bikes because fewer calories are burned per kilometre, despite the emissions from battery manufacturing and electricity use

If cycling’s popularity in Britain increased six-fold (equivalent to returning to 1940s levels) and all this pedalling replaced driving, this could make a net reduction of 7.7-million tons of CO2 annually, equivalent to 6% of the UK’s transport emissions


UK Emissions Targets

To uphold the Paris agreement and keep global warming below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the EU and UN is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80 to 90 per cent before 2050, while the UK has pledged to get to net-zero emissions by then.

There is some good news. According to ‘Our World In Data’, the UK’s domestic emissions (greenhouse gases emitted within the UK) fell by 36 per cent from a peak in 1991 to 2018 (the latest available data).

But to get to net-zero, emissions from all sectors must be slashed. Emissions from transport fell by just 2 per cent between 1990 and 2017. Surface transport alone (excluding aviation and shipping) now represents 27 per cent of the UK’s total domestic greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 24 per cent for electricity generation, making it the UK’s number one source of CO2.

This is not just a British problem. Transportation emissions in the EU rose by 36 per cent between 1990 and 2007, while those from other sectors fell.

To get to net-zero, we’ll need to rethink how we travel. At CycleMania we believe cycling is part of the solution!


Is Cycling a Solution?

In order to compare the emissions from cycling to other forms of transport, we need to work out the total amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) released per kilometre travelled, plus the amount of co2 produced in manufactory divided over it’s lifespan.

Overall this is worked out to be around 16g of CO2 per kilometre of cycling in fuel (food) and 5g of CO2 per kilometre for the manufactory of the bike. Therefor 21g per kilometre overall.

This is hugely less than driving, which is estimated to be 271g of CO2 per kilometre on average. Even Walking’s average CO2 emissions are considerably more than cycling at around 56g per kilometre. But surely the ultra eco-friendly space age electric cars will rival the humble bicycle ? not quite. Electric cars have an average of 41g of CO2 emissions per kilometre. Which is far better than a conventional combustion engine, but does not rival the 21g of CO2 per kilometre on your bike. E-bikes on the other hand beat a push bike, at an average of 14.8g of CO2 per kilometre.


Co2 emissions / Kilometre:

Average Car - 271g

Buses -101g

Walking – 56g

Electric Car – 41g

Cycling – 21g

E-Bike – 14.8g

To Conclude

Cycling and E-biking are clear winners in terms of CO2 emissions. Considering that transport is the biggest cause of domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the UK at 27% of total domestic emissions. Switching to cycling as a main mode of transport as opposed to your regular car, bus or on foot journeys could help to reduce this huge section of domestic CO2 emissions that is the travel sector, and lend a hand to a greener future.