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Non-motorised transport (NMT) is often a key element of successfully encouraging clean urban transport. It can be a very attractive mode of transport for relatively short distances, which make up the largest share of trips in cities. The key to reversing the trend towards more private vehicle use is making walking and cycling attractive, together with improving public transport. This can be done by a range of activities including construction of sidewalks and bike lanes, bike sharing programmes, urban planning and pedestrian-oriented development. NMT is a highly cost-effective transportation strategy and brings about large health, economic and social co-benefits, particularly for the urban poor. The main barriers are the perceived low status of NMT, and the current focus on car-oriented planning.


Non-motorised Transportation (also known as active transportation and human powered transportation) includes walking and bicycling, and variants such as small-wheeled transport (cycle rickshaws, skates, skateboards, push scooters and hand carts) and wheelchair travel. These modes provide both recreation and transportation (VTPI, 2010; gTKP, 2010), and are especially important for short trips up to 7 kms, which take up the largest share of trips in urban areas (Witting et al., 2006). NMT can be stimulated by a policy package consisting of investments in facilities, awareness campaigns, smart urban planning, improved public transport and disincentives for the use of motorised private vehicles.

Specific ways to improve non motorised transportation are, inter alia (VPTI, 2010; Litman, 2009):

  • Improve sidewalks, crosswalks, paths, bicycle lanes and networks.
  • Public bicycle systems (automated bicycle rental systems designed to provide efficient mobility for short, utilitarian urban trips).
  • Develop pedestrian oriented land use and building design.
  • Increase road and path connectivity, with special non motorised shortcuts
  • Traffic calming, streetscape improvements, traffic speed reductions, vehicle restrictions and road space reallocation (see 'traffic management').
  • Safety education, law enforcement and encouragement programs.
  • Bicycle parking.
  • Bicycle integration in transit systems (e.g. racks in metro or on bus)
  • Address security concerns of pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Congestion pricing
  • Vehicle parking policies
  • Fuel taxes

Additional information on Non-Motorized Transport, targeted at developing country policy makers, can also be found in a reading list compiled by GTZ which is available here.


Feasibility of technology and operational necessities

Increasing the modal share of NMT is possible in any country; however the successfulness depends on many country-specific factors, including climate, geography, culture, political commitment, public awareness, policy effort and consistency, long-term vision and the attractiveness of the alternatives. Several of these are interdependent, and as shown by the example of Bogotá, strong NMT policies, awareness campaigns and political commitment can bring about a shift in public attitudes towards NMT and a 4-fold increase in cycle trips (Witting et al., 2006; IPCC, 2007).

The main barriers towards implementing a successful NMT policy are (based on ICE (2000):

  • Private-vehicle-oriented transport and spatial planning, which is business-as-usual in most countries, particularly developing.
  • Public perception and status: walking, cycling (and public transport) is perceived as the transportation mode for the poor. The richer part of the population often has a disproportionate decision power, which makes NMT-focused policy risky. Often in developing countries there is a gender bias towards male cyclists.
  • Safety: pedestrians and particularly cyclist are vulnerable, and therefore need separate road space, or at least be respected and taken note of by vehicle users. Lack of social safety, especially for females can also be a barrier. NMT users have a higher risk of being involved in accidents than car users, particularly in developing countries (IPCC, 2007).
  • Lack of convenient public transport, which is required to make NMT a good option for multi-modal trip (i.e. the combination of cycling and rapid bus or rail systems).
  • Chicken-and-egg problem: people don’t start cycling if there are few cycle lanes, and planners don’t build these when there is no interest in cycling.
  • Lack of overall long-term, integrated vision and planning.
  • High costs for bicycles, including taxes.

Status of the technology and its future market potential

In many developing countries, NMT takes a larger share of trips than in developed countries. However the reverse is often true for the trends: modal shares of walking and cycling decreases in developing countries, and (slowly) rises in the developed world. However it’s hard to make generalisations, as modal splits are highly country and city-specific, with NMT shares between 10% and 66% for different Western-European cities, and cycling in urban areas varying between 1% (US) and 27% (The Netherlands) of total trips (VTPI, 2010).

NMT is mostly used for short-distance trips, with cycling particularly relevant up to 7.5 kms, and walking up to 2.5 kms. As up to 70% of cars trips cover less than 5 kms, NMT has a large potential to replace car travel (IPCC, 2007). Several studies have shown that 5-10% of car trips can be replaced by NMT provided good policies are in place (VTPI, 2010).

One of the key parameters is urban density, with typical American cities having relatively low density and more car-oriented policies than European (see also the figure below). Most cities in developing countries are high-density and therefore very suitable for NMT-oriented policies, and with their rapid expansion and development now taking place, there may be opportunities to choose a lower-carbon path than the developed countries have done.


How the technology could contribute to socio-economic development and environmental protection

Good walking and cycling opportunities are a key part of any sustainable transport and planning strategy, and provide an overall improvement of the quality of life (Penalosa, 2004). More specifically, sustainable development benefits of NMT are:


  • Air quality improvement
  • GHG emission reduction

Non-motorized transport does not emit greenhouse gas emissions, nor local air pollutants. Every increase in NMT therefore leads to a direct decrease in emissions.


  • Congestion reduction
  • Health benefits due to exercise. For example, cycling for 30 minutes a day reduces the chance of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes by 50% (Witting et al., 2006).
  • Gender benefits: cycling can be particularly suitable for the many short trips women in developing countries take
  • Social equality and poverty reduction: cheap, fast and reliable transport opportunities, and public space development directed towards all segments of society (ICE, 2000)
  • Safety: increase in bicycle use is often accompanied by a reduction in cycling accidents and an increase in safety in public areas (Vanderbulcke et al., 2009; Witting et al., 2006)
  • Noise reduction


  • NMT, particularly cycling, is easy, flexible, cheap and fast
  • More attractive cities for tourists and residents, particularly if car-free zones are included
  • Reduced travel times due to improved traffic flow
  • Energy security due to lower vehicle energy use

Financial requirements and costs

Generally speaking, NMT policies and investments have a positive benefits-cost ratio (often larger than 5), particularly when co-benefits for health, safety and quality of life are taken into account (VPTI, 2010; Wittink & Godefrooij, 2009; ICE, 2000). For a detailed description and review of costs and benefits of NMT policies see Litman (2009).


For Latin American cities, costs for increasing bicycle modal share by 1-10% have been estimated at 14 $/tCO2, and a policy package covering bus rapid transit system, cycle lanes and pedestrian upgrades at 30 $/tCO2 (IPCC, 2007). The cost of bicycle paths, including construction, maintenance and awareness campaigns, has been estimated at being $ 200,000 per km (Wittink & Godefrooij, 2009). For many developing country citizens, purchasing a bicycle is a substantial investment, which can be a barrier even though the owner is likely to become more productive (Witting et al, 2006).


  • IPCC (2007). Transport and its infrastructure. In Climate Change 2007: Mitigation. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [B. Metz, O.R. Davidson, P.R. Bosch, R. Dave, L.A. Meyer (eds)], Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. [[1]]
  • Witting, R. J. Rijnsburger, D. Wijnen, A. Pettinga (2006). Cycling, a smart way of moving. Second edition, January 2006. [[2]]
  • Hook, W. (2003) Preserving and Expanding the Role of Non-motorised Transport. Sustainable Transport: A Sourcebook for Policy-makers in Developing Cities, Module 3d. GTZ Transport and Mobility Group, available from [[3]]
  • Litman (2009) Quantifying the Benefits of Nonmotorised Transportation For Achieving Mobility Management Objectives. Victoria Transport Policy Institute 24 September, 2009.
  • Vandenbulcke, G., I. Thomas, B. de Geus, B. Degraeuwe, R. Torfs, R.Meeusen, L. Panis (2009) Mapping bicycle use and the risk of accidents for commuters who cycle to work in Belgium. Transport Policy 16 (2) 77-87
  • VPTI (Victoria Transport Policy Institute) (2010) Nonmotorized Transportation Planning. Identifying Ways to Improve Pedestrian and Bicycle Transport. TDM Encyclopedia, [[4]]
  • Penalosa, E. (2004) Socially and environmentally sustainable transport. Presentation [[5]]
  • gTKP (Global Transport Knowledge Partnership, 2010). Non-motorised transport. [[6]]
  • Witting, R., T. Godefrooij (Eds.) (2009) Cycling-inclusive Policy Development: a Handbook. [[7]]=
  • ICE (Interface for Cycling Expertise, 2000) The significance of non-motorised transport for developing countries. Strategies for policy development. [[8]]

Author affiliation:

Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN), Policy Studies


Promotion of non-motorised transport

  • Mobycy is a disruptive bicycle sharing technology platform to solve last mile problem. It helps people cover a short distance without any wait at a very nominal cost. Mobycy is India's first dockless bicycle sharing app. You can pick up a bicycle by scanning QR code through the app, ride and park it sensibly anywhere. Mobycy's vision is to make India a greener & fitter cycling nation.

    Bicycling is a zero carbon mode and it can provide health benefits to the riders. Besides, it can reduce congestion and improve access of people to public transportation.

  • Mobike allows users to see where a bike is available and book it. This is similar to many other bike sharing applications e.g., Drivenow. This can be done by downloading the Mobike Google application. Besides this the application also allows users to access the bikes. This is possible through a device attached to the bike, which enable the unlocking of the bike. The bike can after use be parked in any bike parking within the city.

  • BCycle is a bike share system that is revolutionizing the way people use public transportation. Bike share is a unique solution to the environmental, health, and transportation infrastructure challenges that face modern communities. BCycle partners with campuses, corporations, and municipalities of all sizes to implement and maintain bike share systems that complement and improve existing transportation infrastructure. 

    BCycle has created a web platform where you can get information on various bike sharing companies in different cities of US.  

  • Bicincittà Srl is a leading bike sharing company in the Italian market and present in more than 100 Italian cities, as well as some services in Switzerland and in Spain. It is aimed at public administrations for the installation of bike sharing systems and also for end users for the marketing of subscriptions and the management of services. 

    Bicincittà Srl is directly involved in the planning, installation, service maintenance and marketing operations necessary for the development and promotion of sustainable mobility. 

  • Bicing is a bicycle sharing system in Barcelona inaugurated on March 22, 2007. Bicing is a simple, practical and sustainable way to plan your trips around the city. To go wherever you want and when you want, without smoke or noises.  

    The electric Bicing network is completely complementary to the current Bicing network, thus broadening the offer of long and ascending trips. This network is distributed in 41 stations in car parks and 5 stations in surface. 

  • BIXI Montréal is a non-profit organization created in 2014 by the city of Montreal to manage its bike-sharing system. The BIXI network has 6,200 bikes and 540 stations spread out across the areas of Montreal, Longueuil and Westmount. Much more than just a simple mode of transport, BIXI is now a great way to zip around the city whenever you want to go wherever your heart desires.

    BIXI Montréal, an active mode of transportation contributing to the health and well-being of Montrealers with a vision to be recognized as a key player in Montreal’s public transit system.

  • Bike-sharing ideally complements private and public means of transportation on short distances. It unburdens the traffic in the city centres and improves the attractiveness of public transportation. Over the past few years, bike-sharing has become increasingly popular all around the globe.

    Vélib' is a large-scale public bicycle sharing system in Paris, France. Launched on 15 July 2007,  the name Vélib' is a portmanteau of the French words vélo (English: "bicycle") and liberté ("freedom").

  • Bikeshare in Abu Dhabi powered by Cyacle is a fully automated short term cycle hire scheme available 24x7 with 50 stations and over 300 bikes across Abu Dhabi. Each station has a touchscreen kiosk, station map, and a docking system that releases bikes using a ride code or a member key. It’s a fun, affordable and convenient way to get around.