Why are bicycles, not electric cars, going to save the planet?

Anyone who follows this column knows that I am a great enthusiast and defender of electric cars as a promising mode for our urban mobility in the medium and long term. But it is a fact that, until this scenario becomes popular across the country, it is necessary to invest in alternative modes that have sustainability as their greatest gain – the bicycle being the most democratic of them.

It is estimated that if all vehicles launched in the world today were electric, it would take 15 to 20 years to replace the worldwide fleet of combustion cars.

Bicycles are considered “the new French revolution”, according to a recent report by El País, which is based on the impressive 62% increase in the number of people cycling in Paris in two years.

This is due to the construction of hundreds of kilometers of cycle paths by the French capital’s city hall (in 2020 it was 170 kilometers), as well as the involuntary “push” in the habits of coming and going, caused by social isolation.

This “bike revolution” by Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s team set 2025 as a goal to create a dense network of cycle paths on the outskirts of Paris, with abundant connections so that pedals become, in fact, a transportation alternative.

“Zero carbon”

Another important point, when we take into account the search for “zero carbon” cities, is that electric vehicles are much less polluting than those powered by combustion, but they are not really zero carbon – mining the raw materials for their batteries, making them them and generate the electricity with which they work produces emissions. In this respect, nothing matches the bikes …

One way to reduce transport emissions relatively quickly, and potentially globally, is to switch from cars to cycling and active mobility, as we’ve already covered in the column. After all, based on the sustainability of the modal, it is cheaper, healthier, favors social isolation, is better for the environment and equally fast in congested urban centers.

Cheaper, healthier, favors social isolation, is better for the environment

A survey by Professor Christian Brand, a specialist in Transport, Energy and the Environment at the University of Oxford, estimates that people who stop driving to ride a bicycle, in just one trip a day, reduce their “carbon footprint” by about half a ton of CO2 over the course of a year. The carbon savings are the same as for a flight from London to New York.

“If only one in five urban residents would permanently change their travel behavior in this way in the coming years, this would reduce emissions by about 8% for all car trips in Europe”, says the professor, in a publication on the portal The Conversation.

Also according to the Oxford University survey, almost half of the drop in daily carbon emissions during global lockdowns in 2020 came from reductions in transport emissions.

“The pandemic has forced countries around the world to adapt to reduce the spread of the virus”

“In the UK, walking and cycling were the big winners, with a 20% increase in the number of people who walk regularly. Cycling has increased by 9% during the week and 58% on weekends, compared to pre levels. -pandemics ”, explains the specialist.

In line with Professor Brand, it is a fact that active mobility and cycling can contribute to tackling the climate emergency earlier than electric vehicles, while providing an accessible, reliable, clean, healthy and helps to reduce urban congestion.


Beto Marcelino, biweekly columnist of TecMundo, is an agronomist, founding partner and director of government relations at the iCities, a company of projects and solutions in smart cities, which organizes the Smart City Expo Curitiba, the largest event in Brazil on the theme with the seal of FIRA Barcelona.

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