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Cycling in Europe

  • In 2000 there were ca. 200 million bicycles in the EU 15 (compared with 160 million cars and 374 million inhabitants), but only 10% of the bikes were used on any given day. (Sources: Eurostat, Les Ludson, 2000, Transport and tourism: Cycle tourism – a model for sustainable development in Journal of sustainable tourism, Vol 8 No 5) (
  • On average a Dutch person cycles 2.3 km a day and a Spaniard only 0.1 km.
  • (Source: European Commission, DG Transport; 2002, EU energy and transport in figures, pocketbook)
  • 26% of all trips in the Netherlands are made by bicycle. In Great Britain the figure is only 2%.
  • (Source: “Cycling in the Netherlands”, Fietsberaad, 2009;
  • Improving cycling infrastructures can increase cycling levels in a very short time. Barcelona has introduced a self-service bicycle hire system in March 2006 with bikes shared across the city (similar to the
  • Velib-system in Paris). As of November 2007, the system had been used more than 2 750 000 times, representing 8 000 000 km of travel.
  • (Source:
  • Most trips in European cities are shorter than 6 km, a distance that can easily be travelled by bike, often more quickly than by car).
  • (Source: “Cycling in the Netherlands”, Fietsberaad, 2009;


Economic benefits and energy efficiency of cycling

  • The average purchasing price of a new bicycle is EUR 579, more than 30 times less than that of an average car.
  • (Source: “Cycling in the Netherlands”, Fietsberaad, 2009,
  • More cycling can help decrease the dependency of the European economy on costly oil imports. Today, in the EU, our primary energy supply is 80% dependent on fossil fuels. (Sources: “Bicycles touted as ‘first modern post-fossil 10
  • vehicle’”, 2009, Communication from the Commission “Investing in the Development of Low Carbon Technologies (SET-Plan)” COM(2009) 519 final) During the life-time of an average car approx. EUR 10 000 are paid for the car’s fossil fuel consumption. Much of the money leaves the EU to pay for fuel imports.
  • (Source: Transport and Environment,
  • In terms of energy efficiency, on bikes humans have even surpassed natural evolution: to move 1kg of body mass 1km, a cyclist on a normal bike uses only 0.136 calories while a seagull uses 1.433 calories.
  • Per passenger-mile, a bicycle needs only 35 calories, whereas a car expends 1 860 calories. (Sources: V.A.; Tucker, 1975, American scientist Vol. 63, p. 412 and
  • In Germany the turnover in cycle tourism grew from 5 billion in 2000 to 9  billion in 2009. Investment in bike-tourism infrastructure (in particular cycle routes, cycle ways and cycle tracks) can be recouped in less than two years.  (Source: 2005 figure: ADFC estimation, 2009 figure: DTV – Grundlagenuntersuchung “Fahrradtourismus in Deutschland”, “Regionalwirtschaftliche Effekte des Radtourismus in Rheinland-Pfalz”, study Europäisches Tourismus Institut 2007)
  • If you relate the kilometres driven in a car to the time actually spent in a car plus the time spent working to pay for its total running costs, the average speed of a car is 8 km/h. You would be faster on a bicycle. (Source:


Health & safety

  • The air inside a car can be more polluted than the ambient air breathed by the cyclist on the same street. The air inside a car contains twice as much CO as the outside air and approximately 50 % more nitrogen oxides. (Source: J. Dekoster, U. Schollaert; Report: Cycling – the way ahead for towns and cities, European Commission, DG Environment, 1999) On the other hand there are conflicting reports on the level of particles (PM10 and UFP) which may be lower inside a car than in the ambient air. Cyclists are therefore advised to use side roads with less motorised traffic to reduce exposure to pollutants, which they inhale at a higher rate than car drivers, due to their physical activity. Cycling infrastructure designed to increase the distance between motorized vehicles and cyclists at key locations (such as street canyons, intersections and strong slopes) can significantly reduce exposure of cyclists to traffic related air pollution. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that increased exposure would offset the health benefits of cycling. (Source: Int Panis et al., 2010. Exposure to particulate matter in traffic: A comparison of cyclists and car passengers. Atmospheric Environment 44, 2263-2270. doi:10.1016/j.atmosenv.2010.04.028;
  • There is safety in numbers: The more cyclists on the streets, the fewer road accidents for cyclists occur. (Source: C. Hydén, A.Nilson, R. Risser 1998 quoted in the report “Implementing sustainable urban travel policies: moving ahead national policies to promote cycling”)
  • Wearing a helmet does not protect you as much as a good cycling infrastructure. In the Netherlands only 0.1% of cyclists wear a helmet; the Netherlands have fewer than 20 fatal accidents per 1 000 000 000 kilometres cycled. However, in Finland where 20% of all cyclists wear a helmet there are 50 fatal accidents per 1 000 000 000 kilometres cycled. (Source: C. Hydén, A.Nilson, R. Risser, 1998, quoted in the report “Implementing sustainable urban
  • travel policies: moving ahead national policies to promote cycling”
  • Regular cyclists have health benefits 20 times superior to the risk of accident. A UK study calculated a ratio of 20 to 1 between the general health benefits deriving from regular cycling and the incurred health risks of cycling.  (Source: ECF, Facts and figures, 2009,
  • People who cycle to work have a 39% lower all-cause mortality rate than those who do not. (Source: Andersen et all, 2000, “All-cause mortality associated with physical activity during leisure time, work, sports and cycling to work” in Archives of Internal Medicine, vol. 160)
  • Cycling has a positive effect on emotional health – improving levels of well-being, self-confidence and tolerance to stress while reducing tiredness, difficulties with sleep and a range of medical symptoms. (Source: Boyd, H., Hillman, M., Nevill, A., Pearce, A. and Tuxworth, B. (1998). Health-related effects of regular cycling on a sample of previous non-exercisers)
  • An adult who cycles regularly will typically have a level of fitness equivalent to being 10 years younger and a life-expectancy two years above average. (Source: Tuxworth 1986 quoted in ECF, Facts and figures, 2009,


Environmental benefits

  • Half of all car trips in EU 15 are shorter than 6 km, a distance that can well be cycled.  (Source: European Environment Agency, TERM report 2001, If just 30% of car journeys below 6 km were replaced by bicycle trips, there would be a 4% reduction in CO2 emissions from road traffic. (Source: Global alliance for EcoMobility funding conference quoted in CCN News January 2008)
  • A bicycle commuter who rides 8 km to work, four days a week, avoids 3 220 km of car driving a year — the equivalent of 380 l of petrol saved and 0.75 t of CO2 emissions avoided. (Source: Rails to trails conservancy & Bikes Belong coalition, 2008, report “Active transportation for America”,


For comparison: average annual EU 27 per capita CO2 emission are at 8.8 t. (2005, source:, compared with India 1.3 t, and China 4.3 t (2005, source: