33rides: our philosophy

We think travel is a good thing

It can give us a break from our daily routine.

It can help us learn more about the world. 

It can introduce us to other peoples, countries and cultures. 

On a good day, it can open our minds and maybe even our hearts.

It can make us happy.

But, like virtually all human activities, travel comes with costs as well as benefits.

We're probably not telling you anything new if we tell you that the climate crisis is one of the biggest challenges (some would say, the biggest) we face as a species. 

Whether we like it or not, at a global scale we're going to have to find ways of limiting our greenhouse-gas emissions if we're to get through the 21st century with a habitable planet.

Within Europe, transport is responsible for a growing proportion of greenhouse gas emissions — in fact it's the only sector that has seen an increase in emissions since 1990.

So, while overall we think that travel is a Good Thing, it's also responsible for a significant, and rising, proportion of greenhouse-gas emissions — and that's a really quite a Bad Thing.

But there is good news.

Because, while some forms of transport —like planes and petrol and diesel cars —are pretty dire in terms of their climate impact, other modes — hello trains! hello bicycles! — are much more efficient.

Want to play "Guess the Climate Impact"?

Click the images below to see their CO2-equivalent emissions per passenger kilometre.

Pedal cycle

16g CO2-equivalent per passenger-km

Ferry (foot passenger)

19g CO2-equivalent per passenger-km

Plane (short-haul, economy)

150g CO2-equivalent per passenger-km

Train (electric, with high proportion of nuclear / renewable generation)

6g CO2-equivalent per passenger-km

Car (medium-sized, petrol)

192g CO2-equivalent per passenger-km


56g CO2-equivalent per passenger-km*.

The emissions figures given for each transport mode above are taken from here and here. They don't include production emissions, and of course they're only averages and in some cases estimates: actual emissions per passenger-km depend on vehicle occupancy and other factors (including whether pedestrians, cyclists — or for that matter passengers on other modes — eat lentils or hamburgers). 

All images are copyright Edward Genochio and do not necessarily illustrate the most up-to-date version the mode of transport they represent. In case you wondered.

Or, if you prefer your numbers on a graph —

Source: Europa.eu

The numbers are slightly different (different methodologies, different assumptions, different dates), but the overall picture is clear: 

As for walking and cycling — the authors of this review state that "walking and cycling... are an obvious choice for clean and sustainable mobility because their emissions can be assumed to be close to zero".

Summary of what we've learned so far

OK, so what has all this got to do with the 33rides project?

We think that bikes and trains are best way to get around.

For lots of reasons. 

(In this article we've focused on the climate angle, but we're also thinking about urban environments and aesthetics, health, opportunity and happiness — we'll have more to say about these another time.)

So we want to use the 33rides project to showcase and promote bikes and trains as the best choice for fun, flexible, low-carbon-emissions travel, adventure, and also general day-to-day getting around.

It's a message that we hope will resonate, and perhaps we'll encourage or inspire someone else to try travelling more by bike or by train. (If that's you, we'd be delighted to hear from you! Drop us a line to say hi.)

But (and here's the harder part) we know that choosing to cycle to work, or take the train for your next holiday, doesn't always seem easy. 

There are all sorts of reasons for this, ranging from availability of information, to cost, to perceptions of safety, which will be the subject of a future article. (Maybe more than one article.)

Some of these are quite hard to solve at the individual level — they will require action from governments, rail companies, local authorities and others.

And that's another 33rides objective: to learn more about what's already good, and what could be better, about train and bike travel in Europe. And to make connections with others who are already working in this area (you'll find some of them here).

We hope that the 33rides project will be able to contribute something to the wider goal of making travel better for our health, better for the communities in which we live, and better for the planet.

Plato - Austrian National Library, Austria - Public Domain. https://www.europeana.eu/item/92062/BibliographicResource_1000126167952

Plato. (Austrian National Library, Austria)

What would Plato say?

Honestly, we're not sure. 

But a wise friend of ours —  not Plato, but possibly a distant relation — said that the only way to cut your travel-related carbon emissions to zero is to stay at home, and of course he's right. 

However, using bicycles and trains (especially electric trains fed by a nuclear- or renewables-powered grid) you can get quite close to zero — especially if you plant a few trees along the way to mop up your remaining emissions.

There's a good article here from the BBC which explains the climate impacts of travel far more clearly than we have.