Under the scenario described by ITDP, bicycling would rise to about 11 percent of miles traveled in American and Canadian cities by 2050. In countries like China where the rate is already above that level, it would be as high as 25 percent.

In order to achieve that level of cycling, cities around the world would need to make substantial changes to their policies and infrastructure, ITDP says, including:

  • Rapidly developing large-scale networks of bike infrastructure.
  • Implementing bike-share, with an emphasis on connections to transit.
  • Revising laws to protect cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Investing in walking and transit.
  • Coordinating regional land use planning with transportation investments.
  • Ending subsidies for driving, like parking minimums and fuel subsidies.
  • Instituting congestion pricing.
  • Dedicating driving fees to sustainable transportation.

The report builds on previous research from ITDP measuring the potential impact of dramatically expanding the use of sustainable transportation in U.S. cities. That study found shifting reliance from cars to bikes, buses and walking, could reduce emissions from transport in cities by 40 percent. The new report was undertaken after bike advocates in Europe and elsewhere responded that the previous study may have underestimated the share of trips that could be shifted to bicycling.

Factoring in the greater potential for mode shift to bikes, ITDP estimates that the total reduction in urban transportation emissions by 2050 could reach 50 percent if cities aggressively pursue policies to promote sustainable modes. The upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris “provides an excellent opportunity to move global policy toward supporting this scenario,” ITDP concludes.

This piece first appeared in Streetsblog USA