The Path Less Travelled: Scaling Up Active Mobility to Capture Economic and Climate Benefits

December 2023


In the years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many cities and countries have taken action to position and promote active mobility—cycling and walking—as transport modes. Demand for active mobility during the pandemic skyrocketed, and cities and governments responded by making more space on streets, providing free access to bikeshare systems, and allocating budgets to bicycle purchase incentives.

More and more cities worldwide are interested in building cycle lanes and pedestrian networks that improve access to public transportation and enable low-carbon mobility. However, due to chronic under-valuing and under-investment in cycling, few cities outside Northern Europe have a complete network of protected bicycle lanes or the sustained funding needed to develop and maintain cycle infrastructure at scale.


Based on a review of five city case study projects—Addis Ababa, Buenos Aires, Dar es Salaam, Lima, and Tianjinthe paper presents calls to action for development banks, city and national governments, and philanthropy and civil society organizations to help coordinate and scale investment in active mobility infrastructure. While national and city governments are responsible for implementing infrastructure, development banks, philanthropic organizations, and civil society organizations must also take action to help advance and scale needed financing and technical assistance for cycle infrastructure.

Ultimately, investment in active mobility infrastructure supports other crucial sustainable transport goals, such as improving road safety and expanding access to and ridership of BRT and metro. For cities to harness the full potential of cycling and its related infrastructure, there needs to be more multi-sector collaboration, policymaking, and resource allocation towards sustainable mobility projects as a whole.

Tianjin China is one of the case studies in the paper examined for its recent investments into cycling infrastructure

Opportunities For Action

Key Financial PlayersKey Actions for Scaling Up Investment in Active Mobility
Development banks
Multilateral and bi-lateral banks
• Improve project design requirements to include and track active mobility investments in urban transport projects
• Adopt a standardized CBA methodology and toolkit for active mobility infrastructure
• Increase funding towards a coordinated effort to help build knowledge and capacity within national and city governments to design and implement active mobility networks
City governments​​​• Develop (or update) an active mobility network plan that demonstrates a clear vision for how active mobility aligns with urban development, public health, climate, and related goals​​
• Consider seeking grant funding from development banks, philanthropy, and others to develop a cycle network plan and/or evaluate CBA
• Communicate the benefits of active mobility with the public and other road users to build support
• ​​​Design and fund (or seek financing for) programs that support cycling (i.e., bikeshare, secure parking, car-free events)​​
National governments​​​• Develop (or update) a national ​active mobility ​plan​ that delivers multimodal transportation options​
​​​• Coordinate with transport and planning authorities to develop planning guidelines and design standards that incorporate active mobility
​​​• Seek financing from development partners for active mobility network plan implementation
​​​• Require roads projects to include cycle and pedestrian infrastructure to qualify for national ​​funding
​​​• Tie eligibility of local authorities for national funding to active mobility budget targets
Philanthropy and civil society organizations​​​• Contribute to CBA methodology standardization efforts and data collection to make the case for active mobility infrastructure investments
​​​• Provide technical assistance to governments to develop and implement active mobility network plans
​​​• Coordinate key stakeholders to identify and address knowledge, data, and financing gaps

Interested in learning more about our research or have a press inquiry? Email us at

Download ↓


Sign up for updates on our projects, events and publications.