Bicycle rider in Portland, Oregon.
Ryan J. Lane (iStock)

Many cities, like Portland, Oregon shown here, are planning for increased bicycle travel. 

Bicycle Infrastructure

Reduce SourcesTransportationShift to Alternatives
CO2 Equivalent
Reduced / Sequestered
Trillion $US
Net First Cost
(To Implement Solution)
Trillion $US
Lifetime Net
Operational Savings
Bicycles offer an alternative to cars and fossil-fuel transport, especially in cities. Infrastructure is essential for supporting safe and abundant bicycle use, thereby curbing emissions.

Solution Summary*

Bicycles are on the rise as cities attempt to untangle traffic and unclog skies, urban dwellers seek affordable transportation, and diseases of inactivity and billowing greenhouse gases become impossible to ignore. Infrastructure is essential for supporting safe, pleasant, and abundant bicycle use, and includes:

  • networks of well-lit, tree-lined bike lanes or paths—the more direct, level, and interconnected the better
  • well-designed intersections, roundabouts, and points of access, where bicycles and cars meet
  • access to public transport, secure bike parking, city bike-share programs, and workplace showers.

Where cycling thrives, programs and policies complement physical infrastructure. Educational initiatives target cyclists and motorists alike, for example, and stricter liability laws protect those on two wheels. Numbers from the world’s cycling capitals are compelling. In Denmark, 18 percent of local trips are done on two wheels, and in the Netherlands, 27 percent—with virtually zero emissions.

A virtuous cycle is clear: With more infrastructure come more riders. Perhaps counterintuitively, with more infrastructure and more riders, safety improves. And the more bicycles there are traversing a city, the more it reaps numerous returns on investment, including the health benefits of cleaner air and greater physical activity.

* excerpted from the book, Drawdown

In 2018, just under 3 percent of urban trips around the world were completed by bicycle. In some cities, bicycle mode share is over 30 percent. We assume a rise to almost 4–8 percent of urban trips globally by 2050, displacing 3.4–6.1 trillion passenger-kilometers traveled by conventional modes of transportation and avoiding 2.6–6.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions. By building bike infrastructure rather than roads, municipal governments and taxpayers can realize US$2.7–US$7.5 trillion in construction savings and US$827–US$2400 billion in lifetime operating savings.