Study links building bike lanes to cuts in carbon emissions

Cyclists will be pleased to hear that scientists at Canada’s McGill University have found evidence that building safe bike lanes in cities cuts polluting vehicle fumes.

The Montreal-based team looked at looked at car and bicycle trip information from surveys for the years 1998, 2003 and 2008 in Montreal, and concluded that the construction of new cycling infrastructure prompted people to ditch their cars and get on their bikes.

A sign that "if you build it they will come" is true in the case of cycling, the researchers found a link between "bicycle infrastructure accessibility" and "bike mode choice".

Specifically, they calculate that an increase of 10% in the accessibility index results in a 3.7% increase in ridership.

Bike lanes also make the air cleaner, they suggest.

The researchers analysed the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions prompted by the construction of dedicated bike infrastructure, and the subsequent reduction in driving, and postulated a reduction of close to 2% in emissions for every 7% increase in the length of a cycle-path network.

Commenting on the findings, cycling advocacy magazine Momentum said the emissions reduction was significant, equivalent to the Montreal’s entire fleet of buses being converted to hybrid, plus other measures.

"While critics point out that the study is too limited in its scope – after all it could just be some other element specific to Montreal that lends itself to a strong cycling culture – the finding is corroborated by numerous other studies which link increased bicycle infrastructure to increased ridership," said the Momentum article.

It cited a 2014 study undertaken by researchers in Portland which determined that the construction of new bike lanes led to an increase in ridership anywhere from 21% to 171% in different neighbourhoods.

Image: Researchers found a link between bicycle infrastructure accessibility and reduced carbon emissions (Ed Yourdon/Wikimedia Commons)

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