BlogCities City bikes: the key to fighting climate change
November 9, 2022

City bikes: the key to fighting climate change

By Fifteen
The climate crisis needs no introduction. The 0.5° rise in global temperature in the past 50 years has contributed to the frequent wildfires and extreme weather that we see today (IPCC).

Ambition to address climate change appears high. Transport has the highest reliance on fossil fuels of any sector, and accounts for 37% of CO2 emissions so it’s no wonder that many are seeing potential in this sector to see real change. In fact, at COP26, 33 countries committed to make zero-emission vehicles accessible, affordable, and sustainable, and the new norm in all regions by 2030


The current pledges, actions and commitments are not enough. The past eight years were the eight hottest, ever. As illustrated in the figure below, we’re on track for a global warming of anywhere between 1.3° and 2.9°. The time for drastic action is now and cities are a crucial part of the solution. Ambition is not enough, measurable action is needed.

Expected temperatures based on different types of actions (Climate Action Tracker)

The strategy to addressing climate change

There is a distinct national focus on addressing climate concerns, but cities are uniquely positioned to create real impact. Cities are home to over half of the planet, and are responsible for over 70% of global C02 emissions. A lot of emissions and pollution stem from the transport sector which heavily relies on fossil fuels - and where there is so much opportunity to effect real change.

When looking at where to create real impact, not all modes of transport are created equal. Cycling has a carbon footprint of about 21g of CO2 per kilometre. That’s less than walking or getting the bus and less than a tenth the emissions of driving. 

How Green is transport? Greenhouse Gases Per Passenger by mode of transport (Seb Stott, BikeRadar)

Decarbonising the transport sector is key to decreasing emissions and building more sustainable cities for people. While many people think of shipping and air travel as needing to be decarbonised, in fact nearly 75% of all emissions within transport are generated on roads. 

The leaders addressing climate change

Rethinking the transport system of cities is central to mitigating the effects of climate change. Governments have great ambition, with many countries committing to mitigating emissions specifically from the transport sector. 

The fifteen-minute city should improve the lives of its residents

The cities leading change and creating real impact

Leaders around the world have successfully designed and developed cities to implement concepts from the fifteen-minute city. However it should be highlighted that changing behaviour is easier said than done. Cities can be very car-centric and driving a car can simply be more convenient. The cities taking the lead in creating real change and impact include:


Transport plays an important role in future-proofing the city. The Helsinki City Board, led by Mayor Juhana Vartiainen, approved the Carbon neutral Helsinki 2035 Action Plan in 2018. The city’s goal is to reduce the direct emissions by at least 80% (compared to 1990) by 2030 and they looked to the transport sector to make this happen. In fact, the city already achieved a 33% reduction of emissions in 2021.

Emissions in Helsinkis 1990-2030, by Sector.png

One approach the city has taken is to shift people from passenger cars to more sustainable forms of transport. The city is aiming to increase cycling’s modal share to at least 13% by 2025 and 20% by 2035 (from the current share, between 8-10%). To support the shift residents are offered financial support which are valid on the city’s bike sharing scheme.

Helsinki is home to one of the most successful bike-share schemes in the world. When the city chose us in 2016, we were delighted to set up a pilot scheme of 500 bikes and 50 stations. The service, run by City Bike Finland (which we created with Moventia), was an instant hit and, the following year, the city doubled down on 1,000 more bikes and 100 new stations.

The success of the service comes down to a number of elements: the robust and comfortable fleet that people rely on; stations with solar panels that transmit information to the operations team; the accessibility of the scheme (at just €35 for a season pass), and, finally, the outstanding work that the city of Helsinki do in promoting the service.

Picking up a bike is easy: they can be unlocked via RFID or through a code, and the bikes feature a built-in lock for securing your bike when making quick stops.

Fast forward to today and the scheme comprises 4,500 bikes and 450 stations, translating to more than 30,000 daily trips. And, despite each bike being used on average 7 times per day, it still has one of the highest availability rates of any bike-sharing scheme in Europe!


Paris has been on a mission to decarbonise its transport network for the 12 million who live in the Paris region. Initiatives by Mayor, Anne Hidalgo, include creating a low-emission zone to encourage more sustainable forms of transport.

As the most densely populated major city in Europe (21,000 inhabitants/km2), Paris’ bike-sharing service is essential to the city’s sustainable transport network. When the original provider of the service’s contract was up, it was time for a change: Paris wanted a technological shift towards more connected vehicles, and the introduction of electric bikes to the fleet.  Our vision, having won the tender in 2017 within the Smovengo consortium, was to make the service more robust, more accessible, more electric.

With 20,000 bikes (40% of which are electric) and 1,400 stations, Velib’ is the largest bike-sharing scheme in Europe. But it’s not all about size. Quality is just as important.

Inheriting a scheme that has had trouble with vandalism and theft is a challenge; it’s important that the bikes that we provide are robust. Our stations, which have since been upgraded, are vandal-proof and secure bikes from theft. The service is accessible through kiosks, but we also overhauled the user app to make the service accessible to everyone. Now, managing your subscription and account is all done via the website or app.  

In fact, we’ve made over 50 improvements since we began in January 2018 - not to mention a full integration with the city’s travel cards (Navigo) to make seamless multimodal journeys a reality.

With the post-lockdown cycling boom, Velib’ remains the cornerstone of sustainable mobility in the city of light. We regularly see 150,000 trips per day, with a record 210,000 trips being made on pleasant summer days. 4,000 more bikes were taken to the streets for a total of 20,000, as the service continues to grow.

With a transport network like this one, it’s no wonder that millions of bike journeys happen every month across the city of Paris.


Not all ambitious leaders come from large cities. Epinal, home to less than 40,000 people (or just shy of 120,000 if you include the regional area) is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2050. The city is well on their way to achieving this goal by rethinking their transportation. Here at Fifteen, we’re a proud partner of the forward-thinking city, partnering with Thomas Peignard, to provide the ultimate transport network. The network, named Vivolt, connects a region of 120,000 people in an area larger than Los Angeles - without the direct use of fossil fuels.

The sustainable transport network connects the Epinal region of 120,000 people - in an area larger than Los Angeles - without the direct use of fossil fuels.

A sustainable option: Fifteen's augmented bike network which is easy to install and compact

Over the past 10 years, the local government has done an exceptional job to promote cycling across the region. The first big step that they made was to launch a long-term leasing service under the name Vilvolt.

It was, and still is, successful. But they soon realised that they needed a service that was more accessible for occasional users, more practical for people that usually used cars to get around - and more enticing for those that didn’t want to commit to a monthly subscription for a personal bike.

To complement the long-term leasing service, Epinal launched another branch of Vilvolt with Fifteen: a 100% electric offer to cater to all needs. With a fleet of electric bikes and smart stations, complete with a customised user app and fleet management tools, Epinal were able to further promote cycling in their region.

And, guess what? They are running the entire service on their own (with our support when needed) thanks to our all-in-one self-serve offer.

In just 2 weeks after the Vilvolt launch, the first 570 new users had travelled a distance of 5,500km. After 2 months, the citizens of Epinal had clocked up over 20,000km (which is like travelling halfway round the world at its widest point!), saving 1.4 tonnes of CO2 in the process. After less than a year, Epinal has decided to grow the fleet from 150 to 250 electric bikes (+66%).

Discover the 5 steps to launching a bike sharing service in your city

Be a leader

Beyond Climate Change: Creating more human-centric cities 

Decreasing emissions is more than just future-proofing a city. Encouraging the shift towards more sustainable modes of transport such as biking encourages the growth of the fifteen-minute city.

More connected cities

The fifteen-minute city aims to serve and connect entire communities, even in less dense areas. This is readily achieved with Fifteen’s Fusion bike - built with internal automatic gears, making it easy to ride for all groups of society. It also allows areas underserved by train or bus lines to be easily connected to the city transport network.

Healthier cities

Replacing car trips with bike journeys also is good for one’s health. It tackles sedentary lifestyles, reducing the risk of a number of serious illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and strokes - not to mention less cars on the road equal less polluted air to breath.

A human rhythm 

While it is crucial that cities around the world design their cities to mitigate climate change, a transport network is for people. People should be able to get to work, to home, or to a leisure activity within fifteen minutes - and without a car, especially not one that runs on fossil fuels. This is a pillar of the fifteen-minute city, which we are named after. Fifteen partners with cities globally to connect communities within the city, driving a more human rhythm. Ultimately a fifteen-minute city improves the lives of its residents and the benefits go beyond addressing climate change

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