Ride Your Bike, Help the Environment and Create Jobs

World Health Organization says some 76,000 jobs could be created if key European cities emulated Copenhagen.

Tomer Appelbaum

Danish TV series about politicians love to show politicos riding their bicycles to work. A new report by the World Health Organization shows that the Danes have socioeconomic reasons to be proud of this custom as well as environmental: Bicycling creates jobs.

About 76,600 jobs could be created if key European cities emulated Copenhagen, the WHO says. Meanwhile, about 10,000 deaths could be avoided annually due to the health benefits of cycling.

The report “focuses on potential job creation in public transport, cycling and walking," it says. "An analysis of the available evidence suggests that these modes could be significant employers and contributors to the green economy.”

Another study cited in the report shows that projects associated with cycling create more jobs than road-building projects. In the United States, 11.4 jobs are reportedly created for every $1 million invested in sustainable projects, compared with 7.8 jobs created by road-building projects.

Either way, Tel Aviv is ahead of European powerhouses such as London, Paris and Brussels when it comes to cycling for transportation, the WHO says. Tel Aviv, which is placed in Europe for the purposes of the WHO's report, makes it into the top 10.

Entitled “Unlocking new opportunities: Jobs in green and healthy transport,” the report says 26 percent of all trips in Copenhagen are undertaken by bicycle. The Danish capital is second in bicycle use after Amsterdam, which comes in at 33 percent. Copenhagen is followed by Berlin at 13 percent. Tel Aviv’s 9 percent puts it in sixth place.

According to the WHO, the number of jobs directly associated with cycling in Copenhagen is currently at 650, compared with Tel Aviv’s 162 — usually jobs in manufacturing, selling, renting and repairing bicycles.

In large countries such as Britain and Spain, public transportation and cycling provide directly or indirectly hundreds of thousands of jobs, the WHO says. In general, 5 percent of transportation-related jobs are linked to cycling as a mode of transport.

In Germany, an estimated 278,000 full-time jobs are linked to the cycling industry, including in retail, tourism the restaurant industry and infrastructure. In France, some 33,000 jobs are associated with cycling; in Austria the number is 18,000. In the United States more than 1.1 million jobs are generated by cycling.

The report cites a study conducted in France finding that half of jobs associated with cycling are based on tourism.

Of the 76,600 jobs that large European cities have the potential to generate, more than 8,000 would be in London and more than 12,000 in Moscow, the two biggest numbers in this category. For Tel Aviv the figure is 313.

Although jobs in the automobile industry would be lost by the reduced use of cars, overall employment would be expected to increase, the report says.

The WHO notes that cities such as Copenhagen, despite their strong showing so far, still plan to expand bicycle use. The Copenhagen municipality aims to increase the number of bicycle trips to school and work to 50 percent from 36 percent.

Those 10,000 deaths that would be avoided annually stem from reduced air pollution and fewer traffic accidents as well as the exercise gained from cycling, the report says.

The potential to expand cycling in many urban areas is considerable, the report adds, because half of all trips taken in Europe are less than five kilometers long. Cycling, especially on electric bicycles, could provide a convenient alternative, the WHO says.