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Time to get on our bikes

An opinion piece by Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards.

Today is transport day at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow. It’s the day world leaders discuss how they’re going to reduce the second largest, and only increasing, source of carbon emissions.

The focus is on accelerating the roll out of electric vehicles. It’s the road of least resistance. Car owners will be happy as they won’t have to stop at the servo and watch their money vaporise. Car companies will be happy as buyers approach dealerships for a new pride and joy to plug into the garage socket.

There’s no arguing that electric vehicles should be part of our climate solution. But why are we settling for better when we should be striving for best?

The humble bicycle should top today’s agenda. It’s the simple solution to the complex problem of transport emissions. The inconvenient truth is the emissions on a bicycle trip are 10 times less than an electric vehicle trip.

I get it. Not everyone can pedal 43kms to the other side of town to visit the relos for Christmas lunch. That’s not what I’m suggesting.

It’s the short trips where almost anyone can get on their bike. Over half of our trips behind the wheel are less than 5kms. A distance most people can easily pedal. With an average car occupancy of 1.1 people, most of these short trips leave six of the seats in the seven-seater empty.

But it’s too hot, too hilly, too far to ride a bike. No problem. An e-bike means you can dress for your destination not your journey, keep the emissions negligible and conquer any hill; all while still getting your vital exercise.

Joe Biden is pushing a scheme through Congress where Americans who purchase an e-bike get a 30% rebate up to $1500. With a federal election coming up, surely ScoMo will follow his pal and promise us the same deal Down Under?

Today while they’re talking cars in Scotland, hundreds of Melburnians who bought a bike during lock down are braving the weather and changing their behaviour by riding to the office for Ride2Work Day.

In weather that ironically resembled a Scottish Spring morning more than an Aussie one, we witnessed hundreds of riders pedal into town via the new pop-up bike lanes where they weren't be bothered by nor did they bother people in cars.

If the world leaders in Glasgow were serious about transport emissions, they’d change the agenda and make the number one topic accelerating the roll out of places to ride bikes. There are millions of people who want to pedal. But they won’t get on their bikes while they have to dice with vehicles, regardless of how they’re powered.

Read more: COP26: A joint letter on cycling

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.