A new cycle bridge or new bike parking facilities: what are the costs and benefits?
For major infrastructure projects, a so-called social cost-benefit analysis (MKBA) is normal and sometimes even compulsory. What are the costs of a new road and what are the benefits in terms of accessibility, improved road safety, economic gain, etcetera?
Thus far, such cost-benefit analyses were seldom carried out for bicycle projects, mainly because the amounts involved are relatively insignificant. Now that the bicycle is assuming a more important role in mobility policy, it is becoming increasingly important to quantify the benefits of bicycle projects. And to compare these benefits with those of other investments, e.g. road infrastructure.
This prompted the development of the ‘MKBA Fiets’ web tool. Decisio, a consultancy, was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment to develop the tool, in cooperation with Fietsberaad (Expertise Centre of the Dutch Cycling Embassy).
The web tool uses a large number of variables in its calculation of the social costs and benefits of bicycle projects. For instance, how many people will switch from car to bike as a result of the new bicycle infrastructure? Is there a positive impact on absenteeism? The downside: what is the loss in fuel tax revenue? How many people will stop using public transport in favour of the bicycle and will this reduce public transport expenses?
A separate module is available for bike parking near railway stations. The module compares the cost of investment and maintenance to the savings that could be realised if fewer people use public transport, or their own car, to make their way to the station.
Even though the ‘MKBA Fiets’ calculations are based on a large number of variables in the Netherlands, the tool still only offers a rough estimate of the costs and benefits. ‘Playing’ with the input variables and parameters will allow the user to develop a better understanding of the size and effects of those costs and benefits, and of their interrelationship. This is fine for a first impression, but not suitable for a detailed and complete analysis.
The ‘MKBA Fiets’ tool is available on (www .fietsberaad.nl/mkba-fiets). The user enters a number of data concerning the expected use of the proposed bicycle facility. An extensive instruction manual is available, if necessary. Once all the data have been entered, the tool gives an immediate cost-benefit overview for the project. The user (if logged in) can store the results for later use.