Tuesday, 03 April 2012 10:58

Riding your way to a greener future

Riding a bicycle to home and work might seem like a daunting task, but the main responsibility to lower the transportation carbon footprint lies on the shoulders of commuters. Explore the possibilities of riding your way to a greener future.

riding your_wayWritten by Nichelle Lemmer

Fuel-based transport took over our lives since the mainstream development of motor vehicles in the industrial era. Today people cannot imagine life without cars as most urban dwellers spend up to two hours a day using fuel-based transport to get from home to work. 

The revolutionary way in which the motor industry changed millions of lives is not just moonlight and roses – it came at a price. According to David Ingham, project coordinator of the Sustainable Transport Project by the South African Department of Transport, transport is the second-largest greenhouse gas emission source in the country. He says the C02 emissions created by transport represents 14% of South Africa’s and 23% of the world’s C02 emissions because of fossil-fuel combustion.

He says road transport dominates the transport sector emissions of the total CO2 with 13% in South Africa and 17% globally. “Global CO2 emissions from this sector have grown by 45% from 1990 to 2007 and are likely to grow by approximately another 40% from 2007 to 2030.”

One of the strategies in reducing these figures lies in programmes that promote the limited use of motorized mobility. “The key is to avoid the unnecessary use of vehicles.”

One such an initiative was used during the Conference of the People (COP17) Climate Change Forum that was hosted in Durban last year. Thousands of bicycles were available to use as green transportation, complemented by a bicycle route, to travel to various local spots during the conference.


Shifting gears

According to a paper, Calculating the carbon value of cycling, which was done by a research team at the University of Twente (Netherlands), land transportation will play an important role in addressing climate change in the post-2012 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreements made during COP17.

The paper suggests that cycling could be a viable solution to the problem.  Various advantages of cycling as an alternative transport was listed in the paper. According to the document, it promotes an active and healthy lifestyle, it is efficient, particularly for short- to medium-travel needs, it is relatively cheap and has zero greenhouse gas emissions. 

The paper further states that cycling can even contribute towards reducing C02 emissions as C02 emissions are avoided by replacing cycling with a motorized trip. In the paper a suggestion is made that if the C02 benefits of cycling can be quantified, programmes endorsing or promoting it could could attract climate funds. “Various other issues such as the improvement of air quality, liveability in urban cities and increasing health and safety in environments can also be added as benefits for using cycling instead of fuel-based transport.”    

According to the paper, the promotion of cycling in 437 municipal districts in Germany avoids 1,41-million tonnes of carbon emissions annually. “If carbon instruments allow the capitalisation of these benefits, new investments in cycling infrastructure can catalyse sustainable development by cycling mobility,” it is stated.

The study was done by Roel Massink and Dr Mark Zuidgeest, Jaap Rijnsburger, Mark Brussel, Yang Chen and Prof Dr Martin van Maarseveen.

Roadblocks to using cycling as a green transport

If cycling is going to be promoted as a green transport, commuters need to feel safe enough to use cycling as an alternative. According to, authorities have to make it easier for people to use a bicycle not just for recreational purposes but as a main mode of transportation. “Cycling is good for a person’s health, can alleviate traffic congestion and can result in economic rewards.” 

A lack of proper infrastructure, the weather and personal safety are among the reasons why so few commuters make use of this greener alternative. The website states that the safety of cyclers is a big problem to be solved first before encouraging more people to use bicycles. “Some proper steps have to be taken by  traffic departments to provide some separate paths for  commuters on bicycles in order to ensure everybody’s safety on the road.” 

The weight-load a person can carry on a bicycle is also a reason why commuters shy away from using bicycles more often. “The various accessories on the bike can raise the load lifting to a certain extent, but it still cannot match the other means of transport in this aspect,” the website cites.

Another obstacle in choosing this mode of transport, is security. With the high South African crime rate, one has to consider the fact that cyclists are vulnerable targets for criminals. Bicycles also need to be securely locked in a safe place. According to, there are various intricate locks available on the market that will give criminals a hard time in trying to steal a bicycle.

Eco-friendly bicycles

If one decides to take the green route and use a bicycle more often, it is fitting to invest in an eco-friendly bicycle. This way an individual’s carbon footprint for transport can be minimised from the supply chain to the road. 25°C is Africa found that there are several eco-friendly bicycles on the market to choose from.  The Dutch-style bicycle  According to the website, some bicycles are greener than others, but anytime you use a bicycle instead of a car, you’re helping the environment. They list the Dutch-style bicycle as an eco-friendly option. “This bicycle is designed to encourage everyday riding from work to running errands,” the website states. “They are durable, lasting for years, and come with fenders and a chain guard to protect a cyclist’s clothes. The bicycle can also easily accommodate a rack for a basket or panniers.” The key issue is that this bicycle replaces sportiness with style and comfort. The bamboo bicycle The website states that bamboo bicycles are eco-friendly nirvana for those who want to travel fast. “It is naturally strong, light and stiff, which makes it great for speeding up steep streets and mountains.” According to the website, bamboo grows rapidly, making it a highly sustainable material. “Bamboo is used to build affordable bikes in parts of Africa,” it cites.  Fold it up “Folding bikes are popular with people who want to mix cycling with public transportation, whether it’s a morning commuter train or a city bus,” cites “The best of these bikes are light, sturdy and well-constructed.” The website further states that if a person is commuting regularly, the cost is a fraction of what you would pay for driving and parking. Powering up According to the website, a person doesn’t have to do all the cycling work just to be eco-friendly. “Consider the possibility of getting a battery-powered motor that shares some of the work. You still have to pedal, but the ‘cheatercycle’, as it is called, takes a lot of the effort out of zipping up hills and ploughing into a stiff headwind.” The site says that the best thing about electric bicycles is that they make cycling an option for people who aren’t physically able to ride a traditional bike. Be accountable for each carbon of your footprint. The cycling culture in South Africa is still lacking, but it could be changed. It only takes a small group of people to raise a point for the rest to follow. Incorporating cycling into your means of transportation might not be as daunting as you thought.

Information was obtained from the paper, Calculating the carbon value of cycling. 25º in Africa would like to give full acknowledgement and thanks to the University of Twente and David Ingham for the information given to write this article.

GIL Africa 2017