Swapping the car for walking, cycling and e-biking even just one day a week makes a significant impact on personal carbon emissions in cities.
'Active transport' -- cycling, e-biking or walking -- can help tackle the climate crisis according to a new study led by the University of Oxford's Transport Studies Unit and including researchers from Imperial's Centre for Environmental Policy as part of the EU-funded project PASTA: Physical Activity Through Sustainable Transport Approaches.
Meeting greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets requires a significant move away from motorized transport. The team found that shifting to active transport could save as much as a quarter of personal carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from transport.
Published in the journal Global Environmental Change, this is the first study of the carbon-reducing impact of city-based lifestyle changes, and reveals that increases in active mobility significantly lower carbon footprints, even in European cities that already have a high incidence of walking and cycling.
Co-author Dr Audrey de Nazelle, from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial, said: "Our findings suggest that, even if not all car trips could be substituted by bicycle trips, the potential for decreasing emissions is huge.
"This is one more piece of evidence on the multiple benefits of active travel, alongside our previous studies showing cycling is the best way to get around cities for both physical and mental health, and that promoting cycling helps tackle obesity. This should encourage different sectors to work together to create desirable futures from multiple health, environmental and social perspectives."
Small swaps, big impact
The study followed nearly 2,000 people in seven European cities (Antwerp, Belgium; Barcelona, Spain; London, UK; Orebro, Sweden; Rome, Italy; Vienna, Austria; Zurich, Switzerland), collecting data on daily travel behavior, journey purpose, as well as information on where their home and work or study location was, whether they have access to public transport, and socio-economic factors.
The team performed statistical modelling of the data to assess how changes in active mobility, the 'main mode' of daily travel, and cycling frequency influenced mobility-related CO2 emissions over time and space.