Tuesday 1 December 2009

Cycling plays a part in reducing CO2 emissions

The Fietsberaad just published a story about how cycling plays a part in reducing CO2 emissions. What they report is as follows:

There look to be big differences between towns in the Netherlands as the CO2 emissions vary with the mobility of the resident. As a result, a resident from Almere (a new city which started being built in 1976 on reclaimed land) produces twice as much CO2 due to transport as a resident of Amsterdam. It is not just coincidence that bicycles are used for 27% of journeys in Almere vs. 38% of journeys in Amsterdam.

Cycle usage is an important, but not the only, explanatory factor with regards to CO2 emissions per resident in relation to transport. Other important foctors are the spacial characteristics, the composition of the population and the travel habits of the population.

Bureau Goudappel Coffeng calculated the CO2 emissions per resident withy help from the travel statistics from the Mobiliteits Onderzoek Nederland (MON - Mobility Survey of the Netherlands) and the figures for CO2 emissions per passenger kilometre due to travel by car, bike, bus or train. That resulted in an oversight from the average CO2 emission per resident per city.

In greater than 100000 cities, Leiden (48% of journeys by bike), Amsterdam (38%), Haarlem (36%), Enschede (38%) and Rotterdam (26%) scored highly.

That cycle usage is not always the deciding factor is shown by Rotterdam. This city gains through a higher public transport usage and fewer journeys per person per day. And despite a high cycling mode share (48%), Zwolle did badly, as did Emmen, Amersfoort and Almere.

Amongst smaller towns, Vlaardingen, Delft, Schiedam, Gouda en Katwijk did well. In last place came Hardenberg, due to its high number of car journeys.

The investigators concluded that considerable differences exist in the use of public transport and bikes between different towns, and that there is space for these towns to make improvements.

I previously posted a story about how the most important ways of reducing CO2 emissions were those which increased cycling.


Harry Lieben said...

Hah, no wonder Hardenburg is travellled by car! Hardenburg has no cyclepaths. Well.... at least not nearly as good as in Assen.
I have still some video footage of the "cyclepath" near the main street. It looks much worse than the old cyclepath from Assen: very bad pavement and no seperation from terraces of restaurants and sidewalk. The street itself is off limits to cyclists. Horrible! I will post it soon on YouTube.

Chris Hutt said...

I'm sceptical about the significance of cycling in reducing CO2 emissions. For most people cycling is an option for relatively short urban journeys which might otherwise be made by walking or public transport as well as by car, or not made at all.

It's the longer journeys that are most significant in terms of CO2 emissions and cycling is unlikely to be seen as an option for those by most people. These longer journeys can be significant generators of CO2 emissions even if made by public transport, except where trams/trains are powered by low carbon electricity generation.

The Netherlands' CO2 emissions are almost 11 tonnes per capita which is among the highest in the EU. I dare say transport plays a lesser role in that than in most other countries (I couldn't easily find any data on that, but small countries tend to have smaller transport emissions).

But NL is far from a shining beacon when it comes to CO2 emissions overall. Cycling clearly has huge benefits in terms of mobility and sociability in dense urban areas and living in dense urban areas in turn has a lower carbon footprint than the low density suburban development that mass car ownership encourages. But to suggest cycling has a significant direct impact on CO2 emissions is claiming too much.

David Hembrow said...

Chris: You're right that longer journeys are always individually more significant, but there are an awful lot more short journeys than long ones.

Here in NL, 35% of under 7.5 km (5 miles) journeys are made by bike. However, the bike isn't only used for such short journeys. 15% of 7.5 to 15 km journeys are also by bike, as are 3% of journeys over 15 km (a higher percentage than you get even for short journeys in the UK or US).

Even in the US, where claims are often made of longer average journey lengths, 40% of all journeys are under two miles.

It's true that NL's emissions are quite high overall. There are reasons why, of course. It has been noted before, that the west is largely responsible for China's growth of emissions due to the extent of Chinese exports. It may surprise you to know that Dutch exports have a value which is greater than a third of the value of Chinese exports. The same considerations apply. As a nation which has a positive balance of payments, NL is in effect making CO2 on behalf of other nations. What's more, due to the small population of the Netherlands the emissions per head (like the exports per head) will look high.

Also, though, there are large gas reserves beneath the Netherlands, and this is a source for much energy. Personally I think there is an over-reliance on the gas, and while there is quite a lot of it, it would be nice to see fewer references to the stuff as being "sustainable".

Finally, not all of the Netherlands is actually all that densely populated. The city we live in has just 784 people per square km, vs. over 3600 in Bristol. There will be more on this in a later blog post.