Cycling and Green Jobs


The need to develop sustainable transport policies, which improve the quality of transport while contributing to better health, a cleaner environment and greater social cohesion, was one of the reasons for establishing the Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP).

The WHO has just published an advance executive summary of a new study entitled “Riding towards the Green Economy: Cycling and Green Jobs”, undertaken in the context of THE PEP’s partnership on jobs in green and healthy transport. It builds on a 2014 publication “Unlocking new opportunities – jobs in green and healthy transport” by(1) reviewing the methods used in other studies to estimate the number of jobs associated with cycling for various locations and (2) gathering more evidence on cycling-related jobs directly from cities.

Their summary highlights the main findings of the study and the full report will be released later this year.

In the 2014 report, many estimates of the number of cycling-related jobs were based on national-level statistics and studies. In contrast, for the forthcoming report, cities were engaged directly to estimate the number of jobs associated with cycling. Such an approach is more relevant to city authorities, as it helps to provide a clearer picture of the current and potential employment benefits of cycling in a city. The new study represents the first attempt to collect evidence on the number of cycling-related jobs from cities using a standardized approach in the pan-European region. They received data and information from 37 cities or regions in 15 countries in the region.

Up to 435,000 additional jobs might be created if 56 major cities had the same modal share of cycling as Copenhagen.

The new data gathered for this new forthcoming report enabled a review of the number of additional cycling-related jobs identified in the 2014 publication. That report estimated that about 76,600 cycling-related jobs could be created if 56 major cities in the pan-European region achieved the same share of cycling as a mode of transport as Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital. The method used then was to simply extrapolate the number of cycling-related jobs in Copenhagen. It was based on a comparison of the populations of the 56 major cities with that of Copenhagen and the proportion by which the respective modal shares of cycling would have to increase to reach the share of Copenhagen.

The potential number of additional jobs identified in the 2014 report was a conservative estimate, since it only considered existing cycling-related jobs in retail, wholesale and design in Copenhagen. The number of jobs associated with administration, construction and tourism in Denmark’s capital had not been included. The comparison between the information for the cities covered in both reports confirmed that the previous report had underestimated the number of existing jobs in these cities in most cases. On average, the new estimates were more than 150% higher. In addition, data on the relationship between the number of cycling related jobs per 1000 residents and the modal share of cycling suggested that the factor relating these two pieces of information used in the previous report, which was derived from data from Copenhagen, was also significantly underestimated. In this new perspective, the total estimated cycling-related jobs that could be created would increase to 435,000 if the same 56 major cities had the same cycling modal share as Copenhagen.

For London, this translates as 46,799 potential additional cycling-related jobs, based on a population of 7.83 million and a 3% cycling modal share, and an estimate of there currently being 6104 cycling related jobs.

The types of jobs associated with cycling vary, and different jobs require different skill sets. The jobs identified range from designing and manufacturing bicycles to providing various types of services that require various levels of technical expertise and to jobs in administration and construction. For cities that host a bicycle manufacturing company, such a company can contribute significantly to the number of cycling-related jobs. For example, Dieren in the Netherlands has more than six times the number of cycling-related jobs per 1000 people than Groningen.

The data collected demonstrated that more cycling leads to not only more jobs but also the creation of various services, which in turn result in new types of cycling-related jobs. The information provided included various types of services using bicycles, including bicycle messengers, bicycletaxis and cycle logistics (using bicycles for distributing freight in cities). Such services can be facilitated by infrastructure that is conducive to cycling and to a more cycling-friendly transport culture in a city. Information for the cities of Antwerp, Groningen and Ljubljana demonstrate the extent to which new types of jobs can be created. In Antwerp and Ljubljana, the jobs associated with public bicycle hire schemes accounted for more than 10% of the total number of cycling-related jobs, whereas in Groningen more than 20% of the cycling-related jobs in the city were associated with bicycle parking.

Investing in Cycling Increases the Number of Cycling Related Jobs

Investing in cycling helps to encourage and facilitate cycling and to contribute to the development of a more cycling-friendly transport culture. As cycling increases, the higher number of cyclists will need more bicycles, more cycling accessories and more maintenance and repair services.

The more bicycle trips there are in a city, the more cycling infrastructure will be needed, and an increase in the popularity of cycling will also encourage entrepreneurs to set up related businesses and to develop additional services. This was clearly demonstrated by the studies in Portland, Oregon, United States of America. These showed an increase in the number of jobs over time as the modal share of cycling also increased. The city with one of the highest number of cycling-related jobs per 1000 residents, Groningen in the Netherlands, also has the highest modal share for cycling of all of the cities that provided data for the forthcoming report. Many of the other cities for which data was gathered for the forthcoming report also have high modal shares for cycling.

Another important finding is that there is great potential for cycling-related jobs outside cities. This is suggested by analysing both the information in other studies and the data gathered from the cities for the forthcoming report. Some of the other studies that focus on wider geographical areas (national or regional) concluded that tourism could comprise a significant proportion of the total number of jobs associated with cycling. For example, the share of cycling-related jobs related to tourism in Austria and France are estimated to be 70% and 47%, respectively.

At present, the average proportion of cycling-related jobs associated with tourism was only 7%. However, this varied significantly among cities. Some cities reported that they could not disaggregate the jobs associated with tourism into cycling and non-cycling tourism jobs. Others only counted the jobs associated with cycling tours. At the other end of the range, some cities in Serbia – including cities on the EuroVelo 6 route along the River Danube – reported that the jobs associated with tourism comprise at least 80% of the total number of cycling-related jobs. Consequently, the data collected for the current study are inconclusive on the proportion of cycling-related jobs that are in tourism. However, if the high number of jobs associated with cycling tourism in Serbia is linked to the presence of the Eurovelo 6 route, this would suggest that the presence of interurban cycling infrastructure could be important in creating cycling-related jobs. Think of all the cycling related jobs which could be linked to Eurovelo 12 here in the UK!

Public Authorities play a major role in creating green jobs related to cycling.

One of the objectives of the forthcoming report and THE PEP partnership on jobs in green and healthy transport and partnership on cycling, is to reach out to public authorities so that they can fully realize the benefits of cycling. They include not only the job creation potential as outlined in the recent analysis but also the role cycling can play in delivering a greener and healthier transport system. This requires that local authorities take a proactive approach to cycling. City authorities have to encourage and facilitate cycling as an integral part of a multimodal transport system by integrating cycling fully into a multimodal transport strategy, including monitoring the existing levels of cyclingand understanding the barriers to increasing cycling.

Cycling has the potential to create a significant number of jobs, which complement other benefits such as reduced carbon dioxide emissions and air pollution and improved health, all of which can be converted into monetary equivalents. Including such information in the appraisal and planning of transport policies would enable a more accurate assessment of the potential benefits of cycling and enable cycling to play a full role in delivering a green and healthy transport system from the local to the national levels.

Considering all the benefits of cycling, promoting it clearly provides an excellent way to move towards achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals. This especially applies to Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 11 on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages and making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

The report was compiled with the help of the European Cyclists Federation (ECF), ICLEI, Polis, and WHO European Healthy Cities Network. It was presented to environment ministers from across Europe, including Russia and Central Asia, at a meeting in Batumi, Georgia, where the main part of the agenda was to discuss the way forward to a greener economy.

Graeme Maxton, Secretary General of the Club of Rome, noted that “thinking on economic progress needs to shift towards increasing employment through greater efficiency, use of renewable energy sources and reduction of carbon emissions”, stressing that cycling is part of this transition.

The policy framework for more cycling was outlined by Manuel Marsilio, General Manager of the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry: “Policies like congestion pricing and fuel taxes could help governments and local authorities to invest more in cycling infrastructures”.

The city of Batumi has been working on cycling promotion for some years, said the city’s Mayor Giorgi Ermakovi. Participants at the Ministerial Conference can for example see the results of a workshop that took place in 2010 under the THE PEP, following which a cycling route was built, he noted.

François André, Senior Attaché at the Belgian Federal Service for Health, the Food Safety Chain and the Environment emphasised the need for decision-makers to look at cycling from a broader perspective. “Cycling policy should not be developed as a stand-alone issue but form part of a broader policy package as a tool allowing different but complementary objectives to be reached,” he underlined.

Having a national strategy for cycling combined with initial funding to induce additional investment can indeed be instrumental in increasing cycling levels, explained Günter Liebel, Director General at the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management. He highlighted Austria’s national Masterplan for Cycling and a national seed funding project, klima:aktiv mobil, through which a total of €210 million of investment in cycling has been leveraged.

These efforts to promote cycling at the local and national level need to be supported by the recognition of cycling as a means of transport in its own right at the European and international level, added Holger Haubold of the European Cyclists’ Federation during the discussion.

650,000 jobs are linked to cycling in the EU already. This could add over 400,000 more.



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