Difficult to measure the carbon footprint of a bicycle

Difficult to measure the carbon footprint of a bicycle


Cranks, brake pads and frames manufactured on distant continents, batteries and engines containing precious metals, the transport of these spare parts by ship and then by truck … A bicycle, whether equipped or not with electric assistance, is really an ecological object? The question is rarely asked. “A bike that nature considers environmentally friendly often escapes the question of its carbon footprint.”acknowledges Lucas Sola, responsible for the social and environmental responsibility of the Cyclable distributor, a network of 67 stores, and adds: “Most customers don’t want more. »

However, the stakes are not negligible, given the two to three million new bikes distributed each year in France, including the growing share of electrically assisted models (650,000 in 2021).

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Defining a carbon footprint of a bicycle involves, like any exercise of this kind, a thorough calculation, especially when we consider “cradle to grave”, taking into account all the subsequent impacts of the product from the extraction of raw materials. to destroy it, to manufacture it, to transport it or to produce the energy needed to use it. “We bypassed our many suppliers and only the Trek brand conducted an in-depth study.”explains Céline Forestier, CEO of the Cyclable network.

The carbon footprint of Trek, an American manufacturer that primarily produces bicycles for sports purposes, published in September 2021, details CO equivalent emissions.2 of each part and calculated the footprint of its best-selling models. This ranges from 116 kilograms of CO equivalent2 for a basic mountain bike worth in France from 500 to 1,000 euros up to 229 kilograms for an electrically assisted model, the price of which can climb up to 13,000 euros.

devilish calculation

Monconvertisseurco2.fr compares these figures with emissions from other common products or services. The production of the basic wheel therefore corresponds to 16 meals with beef, 3.5 smartphones or 600 kilometers by car. The top model releases up to 1,231 air miles, 10 cotton jeans or 194 pocket pounds.

In any case, the carbon footprint of a bicycle remains much lower than the emissions caused by car production, ie 6 tonnes of CO equivalent, according to a 2016 Nature and Man Foundation study.2 (826 meals with beef) for a city car and up to 20 tons (610 smartphones) for an electric sedan. Given the fuel, “If you drive 692 kilometers instead of cycling, you will avoid the equivalent of CO2 emissions2 which correspond to the production of a bicycle »summarizes Trek’s sustainability report.

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