Double down on active transport, urges World Resources Institute

Active transport policy is not adapting fast enough to meaningfully address climate and sustainability goals, according to a study collaboration between the Transport Decarbonisation Alliance and World Resources Institute.

With transport responsible for 24% of carbon emissions and 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the paper sought to understand to what extent policy changes on the back of the pandemic were taking the world in a more sustainable direction. Transport remains the fastest growing source of CO2
emissions globally.

Assessing the broad picture of public and personal transport choices, it was found just 44% of stimulus was being spent in a constructive way. $130 billion of a total $298 billion spent on transport was seen to be lending to decarbonisation. Just 4% of the latter figure was attributed to active transport, according to the WRI.

Making up that 4% are more than 400 active transport interventions for walking and cycling in over 200 cities, yet in the five-point action plan the duo urge these to be just the beginning of a sustained investment. These investments have demonstrated huge value to society, but all too often have not sustained in the face of returning demand for motor traffic.

“Double down on active transport,” reads the second recommendation, following on from a prompt to subsidise public transport to revive an industry that fared badly through the pandemic to date.

The economic benefits of investing in new mobility will deliver a strong cost-to-benefit ratio, writes the paper. “As with mass transit, studies observe that active mobility infrastructure investments likely create more direct and indirect jobs per dollar spent than road-only projects and have relatively high potential to create jobs across other green sectors.”

As such, one of five policy recommendations encourages investment both in physical infrastructure for cycling and walking, but also a widespread deployment of micromobility services in order that everybody has access to active transport means.

“Countries must increase funding and improve governance at a national level. In some instances they can offer rebates and incentives for the purchase of electric and pedal bicycles and equipment. Meanwhile, companies should promote sustainable commutes through incentive programs,” writes the paper. The recommendations are as below, organised by country, city and company goals.

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On the reverse side of the coin, the study urges that countries and cities cease building new urban highways and begin to implement carbon pricing mechanisms to steer the public away from polluting options. Similar recommendations have recently come from an MP-led Think Tank in the UK that warned current transport policy could be a recipe for disaster without radical reform.

It is encouraged that incentive take priority over punishment, with cities urged to design around a “15 minute” principle that places everything the public needs inside a short radius, accessible by bike, foot or public transport.

Companies too are urged to give thought to their role in the mass movement of people and “when possible, implement work-from home initiatives.”

Without intervention, warns the ITF, transport’s share of energy-related CO2 emissions could reach 40 percent by 2030. Below the ITF has studied the impact of each vehicle mode, discovering that the combined resources needed to cycle a bike or e-bike are at the bottom of the emissions table by some margin.

active transport resources