The humble bike can fight climate change

By Alison Hill

It is difficult to miss the fact that the UK is hosting COP26 climate conference. Midway through the climate conference is the Global Day of Action (Saturday 6th November) where large numbers of people will be taking to the streets to make their voices heard in many different ways.

Actions are planned here in Oxfordshire. We want our politicians both nationally and locally to hear the voice of the many people who want to see action now. There will be lots of events across the county but the largest will be in Oxford, starting at Manzill Way at 1pm. This could be Oxford’s biggest ever climate action. Cycle rides are being organised from different market towns into the city to join the rally.

Choosing to cycle to the rally shows our leaders how essential cycling is if we are going to tackle the climate emergency. Globally transportation is responsible for 24% of direct CO2 emissions, of which three quarters are accounted for by road transport. Apart from the CO2 emissions motor vehicles are responsible for unacceptable levels of air pollution which kills millions worldwide every year.

The humble bike provides the pathway to a safe and sustainable world.

Bicycles are the ultimate in low carbon transport, and are one of the greatest opportunities to help shift us to a zero-carbon future.

Cycling has to be the mode of choice for local journeys. Research from Oxford University’s Transport Studies Unit shows that cyclists have 84% lower CO2 emissions from all daily travel than non-cyclists. Switching from car to bike saves 240g of CO2 per mile travelled. Swapping to a bike from a car for just one day a week saves about half a tonne of CO2 over a year. And integrating cycling with public transport can really increase that potential.

Of course, cycling is not totally zero emission. The whole life time of a bike includes manufacture, maintenance and disposal, all of which have their own carbon footprint, but the life cycle emissions from cycling is more than 10 times lower per passenger mile travelled than cars.

Electric bikes are an important contribution to the future transport mix. Whereas 6 miles to and from a destination on a pedal bike is about the limit for most of us, on an e-bike distances become much less daunting and the accessible range become much more like 10 to 15 miles.

Not only is cycling the perfect low carbon way for us individuals to undertake local journeys but the bicycle can be used for transporting heavy goods. E-cargo bikes cut carbon emissions by 90% compared with diesel vans and electric delivery vehicles.

Oxford’s own Pedal and Post cargo bike delivery company is a leader in showing the opportunities created in undertaking deliveries by bike. They even got a mention at COP26 this week by the NHS Chief Executive as a pioneering project using their e-cargo bike to undertake NHS deliveries. They show what is possible.

There is no way to get to a zero carbon future without a big increase in cycling. We need determined action from our politicians now to boost cycling levels in Oxford, Oxfordshire and the UK. We need to see a commitment to high cycling levels. Locally the biggest gain will be making cycling infrastructure in and around Oxford high quality and safe. Integration with public transport is essential. Businesses need to be incentivised to switch their deliveries to cargo bikes. Nationally we want to see more funding allocated to cycling and away from motor traffic. Taxation needs to change to promote cycling.

So join in this Global Day of Action to show the bicycle can fight climate change. See you at the rally!

‘Promoting cycling for the public benefit in and around Oxford as a means of furthering the advancement of environment protection and the prevention and mitigation of climate change’ is written into our constitution.

Cyclox is a signatory of the European Cyclists’ Federation letter to governments urging world leaders to commit to boosting cycling levels to reduce carbon emissions and reach global climate goals quickly and effectively.

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