Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by Jean-Dominique Billaud

Copenhagen’s bike practices can create jobs

According to a new study undertaken by the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 76,600 people could become employed in the sector of eco-friendly transport every year, and 10,000 lives would be saved, if major European cities adopted Copenhagen’s bicycle practices.

Copenhagen, European Green Capital 2014, aims to be the world’s best city for cyclists. Every day, residents travel 1.3 million km by bike: the equivalent of 30 times around the world! The city has 359km of cycle tracks and many kilometres of cycle lanes. In 1995, the city launched one of the world’s first free bike-share programmes. Today, cycling is an integral part of Copenhagen’s everyday life, with 52% of residents claiming the bicycle to be their main means of transport.

A cyclist in Red Square, a public park in Superkilen, Nørrebro in Copenhagen ©Ursula Bach

A cyclist in Red Square, a public park in Superkilen, Nørrebro in Copenhagen ©Ursula Bach

The publication by the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Regional Office for Europe and UNECE, Unlocking new opportunities, investing in green and healthy transport is not only beneficial to health and environment, but can also be economically profitable.

“An efficient transport system is vital for the functioning of modern economies. However, transport can greatly damage environment and health. That is why we call for a bold Paris Declaration, urging government investments in green and healthy transport,” says ZsuzsannaJakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “The pay-offs from these investments are enormous and include new jobs and healthier people from more physical activity, fewer road traffic injuries, less noise and better air quality.”

According to the WHO European Region, outdoor air pollution, largely caused by traffic, results in almost 500,000 deaths annually. Road accidents kill 90,000 people prematurely each year, while exposure to excessive street noise affects almost 70 million people.

Transport adds 24% to total greenhouse gas emissions in Europe and North America. Since it discourages physical activity, transport contributes to nearly 1 million deaths per year. In total, the costs linked to unsustainable modes of transport can be up to 4% of a country’s GDP.

The full study can be downloaded here.