Green House Gas (GHG) Reduction Potential of Non-Motorized Transportation

Focus Area

Climate Change


Air Quality, Environmental Process







Research Idea Scope

About half of all trips taken in the US are 3 miles or less. Walking and bicycling could be an adequate alternative to driving for many of these trips. The contributions of non-motorized transportation to solutions of problems such as traffic congestion, obesity, and Green House Gas (GHG) emissions from the transportation sector are regularly ignored or marginalized, despite the fact that there is virtually no data available to justify such a conclusion. The scope of this research proposal is to calculate the potential GHG reductions that could result from a shift from car travel to non-motorized transportation modes. Mode shift assumptions would be based on various scenarios, considering achievements in cities that supported non-motorized transportation for many years.

Urgency and Payoff

Investments into non-motorized transportation projects are typically dwarfed, compared to the costs of motorized traffic projects. This research would quantify the GHG reduction potential from such investments. Current GHG reduction efforts in the transportation sector focus on fuel efficiency of vehicles and alternative fuels, largely ignoring the low hanging fruit of shifting short trips from motorized to non-motorized transportation. This research would provide the numbers needed to expand the focus of GHG reductions from the transportation sector.

Suggested By

Thomas Gotschi, PhD, Rails to Trails Conservancy, Telephone: 202-974-5110

[email protected]