Project Drawdown defines bicycle infrastructure as: the increased installation of bicycle paths to encourage more bicycle usage in urban environments. This solution replaces the use of motorized road vehicle infrastructure (i.e. more lanes for cars and buses).
In 2018, just under 3 percent of urban mobility around the world was completed by bicycle, with some places, like the Netherlands, having over 30 percent of trips done by bike. In the European Union (EU), where over 7 percent of urban trips are completed by bicycle, the net economic benefits of bicycle infrastructure improvements have been estimated to be as high as €513 billion annually. This accounts for reduced costs associated with health expenditures, congestion, fuel consumption, air pollution, and more. Research has shown that bicycle infrastructure has a significant effect on the mode of travel chosen in urban environments, most notably through the provision of separate cycling facilities along heavily traveled roads and intersections, and through traffic calming in residential neighborhoods.
This analysis investigates the greenhouse gas and direct financial impacts of an increase in urban bicycle ridership through expanded implementation of bicycle infrastructure.
Total Addressable Market
The total addressable market for bicycle infrastructure is defined as the total projected passenger-kilometers traveled in urban environments from 2020-2050. Implementation was assumed to be in kilometers of lanes (bicycle or car/bus/other) installed, and we assumed a fixed usage of each lane-kilometer installed, with one bicycle lane-kilometer generating 5.2 million bicycle passenger-kilometers annually.
There is limited data on existing global bicycle adoption in the literature. To determine the 2018 global adoption of 898 billion passenger-kilometers, data were used from a 2015 collaborative study on cycling by the Institute for Transport and Development Policy (ITDP) and University of California-Davis (UCD) which included projections.
Impacts of increased adoption of bicycle infrastructure from 2020-2050 were generated based on two growth scenarios, which were assessed in comparison to a Reference Scenario where the solution’s market share was fixed at the current levels.
- Scenario 1: This case is aligned with the projected data from the global ITDP/UCD study, reflecting a reasonable high-adoption pathway.
- Scenario 2: Here the projections from sources for each Drawdown region were used, and expanded upon with assumptions of 30 percent growth per ten-year period. This scenario was based on a total of 31 adoption estimates from 8 sources. Estimates were calculated for each region, summed to determine a global value, and then interpolated back to the estimated current adoption.
Emissions were calculated based on fuel use, but as we considered some electric modes in the two scenarios (i.e. electric cars and buses), we also included some electricity emissions. Data for this came from the US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the ITDP, and the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for emissions factors.
The first costs of bicycle infrastructure adoption were estimated from 29 different lane installation cost data points, collected from 17 sources. Operating costs were taken as the maintenance costs for road and bicycle lanes, and were much lower for bicycle lanes as the wear and tear from bicycles is lower than that from cars and buses.
Bicycle infrastructure is considered a high-priority Drawdown solution, so its adoption was not limited in the integration process.
Should global ridership increase to 3.4 trillion passenger-kilometers, or 490,000 additional kilometers of bicycle lanes over that in 2018, by 2050 (as assumed in the Scenario 1), municipalities would avoid emissions of over 2.56 billion tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent, while providing construction savings of US$2.7 trillion and lifetime operating saving of US$827 billion. , These financial savings compare the cost of constructing new roads and lanes for increased light-duty vehicle traffic to the cost of remodeling or renovating roads to accommodate and encourage bicycle ridership. In the Scenario 2, almost 1 million additional lane-kilometers installed (i.e. to 6 trillion passenger-kilometers of ridership) would result in 6.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions avoided.
The ITDP/UCD study found that combined cycling (regular and e-bicycles) could save $24 trillion between 2015 and 2050, and avoid 225 million tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions in 2050. The total bicycle and e-bicycle impact in the Scenario 1 is 172 million tons of emissions reductions in 2050, with total construction savings of $3 trillion from 2020-2050. These results are much more conservative, in part because we do not include car fuel, vehicle purchase and maintenance cost savings, and some other knock-on savings for the bicycle infrastructure solution. Total bicycle and e-bicycle impact in the Scenario 2 is higher, at 493 million tons of emissions reductions in 2050, suggesting that the ITDP/UCD adoption probably lies between our Plausible and Scenario 2s.
Additional benefits of cycling include improved health and lower health care expenses, and an increase in the uptake of public transport by making more public transport stops accessible by bicycle. These benefits are of great value, and are not included in our analysis. The expansion of bicycle infrastructure and the rates of adoption are affected by many factors: besides the obvious ones like weather, type of bike lane, and geography of the city, other attributes of the city and its residents play important roles. All of these attributes are beyond the scope of this report. Nevertheless, our analysis shows that the benefits we can measure are large when there is significant expansion in bike infrastructure.
 Thomas Blondiau, Bruno van Zeebroeck, & Holger Haubold. (2016). Economic benefits of increased cycling. In Transportation Research Procedia 14 (Vol. 14, pp. 2306–2313). Elsevier B.V. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trpro.2016.05.247
 For more on the Total Addressable Market for the Transport Sector, click the Sector Summary: Transport link below.
 For more on Project Drawdown’s growth scenarios, click the Scenarios link below. For information on Transport Sector-specific scenarios, click the Sector Summary: Transport link.
 Mason, Jacob, Fulton, Lew, & McDonald, Zane. (2015). A Global High Shift Cycling Scenario. Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and the University of California, Davis. Retrieved from https://www.itdp.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/A-Global-High-Shift-Cycling-Scenario_Nov-2015.pdf
 “Current” adoption is defined as the amount of functional demand supplied by the solution in 2018. This study uses 2014 as the base year.
 For more on Project Drawdown’s Transport Sector integration model, click the Sector Summary: Transport link below.
 The net operating savings for the full lifetime of all units installed during 2020-2050.
 Unless otherwise noted, all monetary values are presented in US2014$.
 We only include costs that would be attributable to municipalities rather than the whole society, such as health costs which are challenging to estimate at the global level.
 This is so even after accounting for the increased risk of injury from collisions and accidents.