30 May 2022

How cycling will help save the planet

The transport sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in France, accounting for 31% of emissions. In order to meet sustainable climate targets, it is imperative to drastically reduce our emissions.

IPCC states “Cycling is one of the lifestyle changes with the largest potential to reduce individual carbon footprint“. And “cycling is part of climate resilient development!

Who better than these experts to detail the importance of cycling as a major asset to initiate the ecological transition. Check the unofficial presentation of Cycling the 6th Assessment IPCC Report shared by Valérie Masson-Delmotte, co-président of group I.

Even the IEA (International Energy Agency) advises to make short trips by bike instead of driving, in its last report : How to save money, reduce reliance on Russian energy, support Ukraine and help the planet?

You can try this comparator for greenhouse gas emissions during transport from ADEME, example below with a Morzine-Montriond journey

Greenhouse gas emissions comparator

Cycling is an obvious way of reducing emissions and combating climate change. But many co-benefits can be associated with it: First of all, air quality and noise pollution.

The health benefits of cycling are also well established: cycling is one of the best remedies for a sedentary lifestyle and allows you to maintain regular physical activity with benefits for your physical and mental health.

Another advantage is that cycling is cheap and accessible to everyone. Maintenance costs are much lower and in the face of rising fuel prices, cycling is becoming an unavoidable alternative.

Cycling is also a sector that creates jobs in the regions. According to ADEME, the bicycle industry could create at least 150,000 jobs in 10 years, a figure equivalent to the number of jobs in the car industry in 2020.

A modal shift to cycling also has significant benefits for land-use planning by reducing the number of cars and limiting land development.

Brent Toderian via Bonpote
Cycling and Tourism

As shown in the cycling tourism positioning of the Auvergne Rhone-Alpes region and the monitoring file on ‘velomania’ ” Cycle tourism is growing rapidly. The platform France Vélo Tourisme confirms this growth with the increase in the number of bicycle reception facilities and cycle routes.

Study of Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Tourism on the positioning of the bicycle confirms this “cycling holidays are more than just a post-confinement phenomenon. They are part of a more sustainable change in tourist behaviour.” At present, in France, bicycle tourism generates more than 5 billion euros per year. This figure has increased by 46% in a decade.

This vision of sustainable, local or slow tourism is a real asset for tourist regions. It is in the interest of our territories to follow this beautiful tourism dynamic.

Strong increase and interest for biking

Cycling in general is a growing market, and in France in 2021 more bicycles will be purchased than cars (cycle observatory). Bicycle use is on the rise, even in rural areas, with ridership up 15% over 2019 according to Vélo & Territoires.

However, according to ADEME, the modal share of cycling in France is very low (2.7% of all journeys), which places France only 25th in the European Union where the average modal share is over 7%.

50% of all trips of less than 1 km are made by car. For trips of more than 5 km, the car already accounts for more than 72% of all trips.

Barriers to cycling development

There are many obstacles that limit the use of bicycles: the habit and ease of using the car, infrastructures and territorial developments designed solely to develop the use of the car, the lack of cycling infrastructures, cultural habits, etc. Today, our lifestyles are entirely dedicated to the car.

Not to mention lobbying by the car industry to preserve the status quo. Olivier Schneider, President of FUB, explains “The communication budget of the car industry in France is 4.7 billion euros per year, whereas the entire bicycle market (of all new bicycles) is barely 3 billion euros. The car industry spends more on advertising than the entire value of the bicycle market.

Not everyone will be able to cycle, and it will not be able to be used for every journey, but many preconceived ideas can be dispelled. Stein Van Oosteren, called« Mister bike » (author of Why Cycling, wish of a cycling France) insists “these are not reasons but excuses”.

First of all, the French are not opposed to it: In a study by the french ADEME, 83% of French people are in favour of setting up services and facilities to encourage cycling

For journeys with loads, distance, unevenness… many alternatives exist with electrically assisted bikes, cargo bikes and other three-wheelers. Many craftsmen now travel by bicycle, discover the directory of the association Les Boîtes à Vélo which supports bicycle entrepreneurship in France.

Let us be inspired by our neighbours… In the Netherlands, people over 65 are the age group that uses bicycles the most. In Finland, schoolchildren ride their bikes even on the snow in the middle of winter at minus 10 degrees… Camille Robson has succeeded in using her bicycle in our valley every single day for a full year!We have no more excuses!

According to a study by FUB Parlons Vélo, the two main obstacles to cycling are the feeling of insecurity when cycling and the lack of cycling facilities. It is therefore urgent to develop real mobility and cycling infrastructure policies, and there is a recent evolution in favor of cycling. In a French Region Ile et Vilaine major road projects are abandoned in order to invest in a major cycling plan The president of the departmental council explains: “Our priority must be the fight against global warming”

In rural and mountain areas

In rural areas where distances are great, the bicycle cannot be the only means of travel. IIt is not possible to transpose the same solutions as in the city. However, many journeys are still possible and it is important to start thinking about how to get around more by bike.

Co-benefits such as air quality, reduction of noise pollution, or limiting traffic jams are equally important in our valleys, even more so in periods of strong influence.

But the lack of facilities, the lack of a cycle network and the lack of structures do not encourage daily use. In the Netherlands, even in villages with 1,300 inhabitants, cycling is a daily occurrence.

In rural areas, 40% of trips are less than 5km, and many short trips are made (such as to fetch bread). Finally, we should not think in terms of journeys that are not made by bicycle but think about all that are possibles to do by bike.

In mountain resorts, mobility is by far the main source of greenhouse gas emissions and reviewing daily travel is a major way of reducing our emissions. And it is important to underline the plurality of benefits, for the inhabitants, for the environment and for visitors and tourists.

In the Swiss Alps in Valais, you can reserve a place for your bike on regional transport with resabike. Pro Bike Wallis gives some keys to cycling in a mountainous region.

In the heart of the Alps, in Oisans, cycling has become a real issue for the economic development of the territory, structured in the Cycling Lab Oisans: “The will of the Community of Communes is to make the cycle a leading axis of the development of the territory by maintaining activities, reinforcing the notoriety and diversifying the uses of the bicycle”.

So how do we act? All on our bikes?

Thanks to the FUB French Federation of Bicycle Users and another local association Mobilité Douce Chablais, Montagne Verte organised a film-debate evening around the documentary Together We Cycle. This film explains how Dutch citizens mobilised and took up this subject and succeeded in developing a real cycling culture within a few decades. Inspiring civic engagement to make our territories real ‘cycling lands’.

Employees, start biking to work and try to convince your employer to commit to a pro-bike approach. In France, you can benefit from forfait mobilité durable and learn more on funding for purchase of a bike (cargo bike, conversion bonus…)

Companies, you can register for the programme Objectif Employeur Pro-Vélo which can help you to develop the use of bicycles for commuting and work.

For the local councils, A cycle master plan can be the starting point for a global reflection on travel, and can be included in regulatory documents such as the PLU. A budget must then be mobilised to implement the scheme. Campaigns that motivate change, incentives for daily cycling should be associated. It should not be forgotten that temporary arrangements are often possible: alignment markers, modular dividers, etc.

And many partners can be mobilised:

  • ADEME (national calls for projects)
  • ADMA Académie des Mobilités Actives which ‘aims to provide France with real expertise in the integration of cycling and pedestrian issues into all public and private policies’.
  • ALVEOLE PLUS: funding program for secured bike parking
  • Consulting firm with expertise in mobility as BL Evolution
  • CEREMA (support for the implementation of effective mobility policies and services)
  • Department and region (meter financing, overall evaluation)
  • French State (Active Mobility Fund and DSIL) and Europe (Interreg, ERDF…)
  • FRANCE MOBILITES : platform of the ministry of ecological transition to improve daily transport in all territories
  • FUB French Federation of Bike Users to promote cycling in everyday life
  • GENERATION VELO : supports the deployment of the Know How ty Cycle to local authorities
  • VELO & TERRITOIRES: National network to develop the use of bicycles in all territories, especially in the funding for cycling policies

But above all, climate change and the environmental crisis cannot wait. As IPCC concludes “The evidence is clear: the time for action is now.” Every choice matters.”

More useful resources from Montagne Verte: