3.2b Use of Bicycles and Tricycles for Good Movement in Paris and CO2 Savings

Project Number


Project Summary

Use of Bicycles and Tricycles for Good Movement in Paris and CO2 Savings

Project Status


Project Brief



Topic Area

Integrated Freight and Passenger Systems

P.I. Name & Address

Associate Director, New Initiatives, University Transportation Research Center (UTRC), Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering
The City College of New York
140th St. and Convent Ave
Steinman Hall T-195
New York, NY 10031
United States
Senior Researcher, Economics
University Paris-Est, IFSTTAR/SPLOTT
14-20 boulevard Newton, Cite Descartes
77447 Marne la Vallee cedex 2

To address growing environmental concerns, most urban transport policies seek to incentivize a modal shift from polluting modes towards “clean” ones. Various policies have been implemented to increase the attractiveness of non-motorized modes, such as bikes, that offer both environmental and health benefits. It is noticeable, however, that while freight is essential to urban dynamism, policies to promote the use of human-powered vehicles rarely address goods movement.

This study seeks to develop a method to evaluate the influence of Paris’ efforts to promote the usage of bicycles and tricycles for goods movement, and for estimating the resulting impact on CO2 emissions between 2001 and 2014. A broad definition of goods movement is adopted, as benefits could be achieved not only by freight professionals substituting their vans or trucks with bikes or cargo-bikes, but also by households changing their mode of travel to buy goods. After describing recent Parisian transport policy, this paper examines the evolution of passengers’ bike mobility from 2001 to 2014, with a focus on shopping trips. Then, the volume of delivery and courier mileage realized in Paris using bicycles and tricycles is estimated from an original survey. Using estimated modal origins of new bike trips, CO2 savings are computed.

Recent Parisian transport policy is mainly based on the narrowing of urban space available for cars, with resulting free space then redistributed to cleaner transport modes. The bicycle network has been extensively developed, with an increase of 355 lane-kilometers between 2003 and 2012. The number of parking places for bicycles has also jumped, with more than 20,000 additional places provided for private bikes. In addition, the Paris municipality introduced a bikeshare service (Vélib) in July 2007 by signing a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) with JC Decaux. The private company agreed to bear the initial cost of the 20,000 bikes parked in about 1,400 stations in exchange for the right to receive discounted access to 1,600 advertising billboards in Paris streets. However, new infrastructure was inadequate to accommodate freight. In response to major concerns from the freight industry, consultation between the City of Paris and freight stakeholders began in 2002, culminating in the 2006 signing of a non-binding “Freight Charter” outlining specific commitment for stakeholders. To address the challenge of warehouse sprawl, the city has also invested in “urban logistics spaces” that provide a central location where goods can be transferred from trucks and vans to smaller, cleaner vehicles for last-mile delivery. At least one cargo cycle operator – La Petite Reine – has benefitted from this measure. Clearly, recent Parisian transport policy aimed to promote the usage of bicycles.

Assessment of the evolution of individual mobility in Paris relies on regional household surveys conducted in 2001 and in 2010. Results indicate that the “anti-car” policy was successful; the Paris-Paris passenger*kilometers (pkm) performed by cars decreased by 34% while the Paris-Suburbs journeys fell by 5%. Importantly, policies implemented to encourage bicycling also appear to have been highly effective; the number of pkm realized with bikes grew by 160% between 2001 and 2010. While such a modal evolution is impressive, bicycle travel as a share of total mobility is still very small; only 1% of the Paris daily pkm. Shopping trips represent 7.6% of the total pkm related to Paris city in 2010. Also, around 11% of the total pkm driven by bicycles in 2010 was for shopping purposes. Examining the evolution of pkm for shopping by bikes, we find a growth of 75% over 2001-2010. After subtracting the estimated mileage for previously walked trips (15%) and the 10% of mileage assumed to be induced demand, i.e. the mileage that did not pollute before, 10% of the new pkm using bikes for shopping was performed by cars in 2001, 50% by buses and 40% by subway.

To assess the evolution of commercial freight mobility in Paris performed by bikes and/or cargo-bikes, an original survey was conducted during the spring of 2014. In total, 15 relevant companies were identified; of these, nine agreed to complete a survey via email. Based on answers of individual companies, a total of 10,816 km daily driven by bikes for freight activities has been estimated for 2014. This figure is not negligible; accounting only for nine businesses (of a total of 15 identified), it is equivalent to about 15% of the total bicycle pkm performed by individuals for shopping purposes in Paris. Similarly, around 588 ton*kilometers (tkm) were estimated to be carried daily in Paris by human-powered vehicles in 2014. Importantly, around 70% of tkm relies on the usage of electric cargo-bikes, 29% on standard bikes and only 1% on electric bikes. It should also be noted that only two firms operated bike services in 2001. After extrapolating our results to the 15 relevant firms, calculations suggest that the freight activities using bikes in Paris have dramatically increased since 2001. Total km traveled increased by a factor of about 10. The evolution for tkm is even more impressive, having been multiplied by a factor of 21. Thanks to the answers to the survey, km and tkm of previous modes used in Paris for freight activity were finally estimated; 5,876 km/180 tkm used to be moved by motorized two-wheels in 2001, 7,880 km/612 tkm by vans and 882 km/53 tkm by trucks.

Crossing emission parameters with the previous mode shift figures, an estimated 3.3 tons of CO2 are found to be avoided daily due to the increased usage of bikes and cargo-bikes to move goods in Paris. The greatest change is linked to the reduced number of tkm realized with vans over 2001-2014 (-839 kg CO2/day), and the next from motorized two-wheels (-725 kg). Savings from past truck movements are moderate (-46 kg) due to the low share of deliveries/shipments that used this mode in 2001. The CO2 emissions linked to the energy consumption of electric cargo-bikes is almost negligible, around 2.2 kg/day. Importantly, individuals’ modal changes for shopping purposes represent 51% of the total CO2 savings estimated. Such a result consequently highlights that commercial operators are not the sole “freight” polluters in cities and that inhabitants can also change their habits to enjoy a “greener” environment. These calculations suffer many uncertainties and the benchmark has logically to be tested against alternative scenarios. For alternate assumptions, the decreases in CO2 emissions range from 2.6 tons/day to 3.4 tons/day

While this study has focused on quantifying growth in the use of cycles for freight, a number of related areas warrant further exploration.  Some areas of research need to include understanding the factors that drive consumer and customer mode choices, understanding the costs associated with cycle freight supply chains, and understanding the price competitiveness of cycle freight compared to motorized alternatives. Future works should also examine not only the CO2 benefits estimated in this study, but also the broader social and economic impacts of increasing goods movements by bicycle, including but not limited to local pollutants, noise, and time (through reduced car congestion). Recognizing the wide breadth of impacts, ultimately a comprehensive socio-economic appraisal should be undertaken to determine the true responsibility of the public policy within the observed changes.

Summary: The Good Impacts Of Biking For Goods: Lessons From Paris City