Holger Haubold, ECF’s Fiscal and Economic Policy Officer, 18/7/2014
Pro Velo R&DSource: ecf.com
Investing in cycling does not only make cities more liveable, it also pays off economically. Returns can be up to 24 times higher than the initial investment. Three recently published studies from three different continents show this.
In New Zealand, researchers from the University of Auckland studied the societal costs and benefits of commuter bicycling in their city. Using ‘system dynamics’ modelling and building on knowledge from the local community, policy-makers and academics, they found that a best-practice cycling policy would deliver returns 24 times higher than the initial investments, while also saving 4 000 years of life in between 2012 and 2051 and halving green house gas emissions. The study took into account costs and rates of injuries, health effects of air pollution and physical inactivity, green house gas emissions, and fuel cost savings.
Click on image for full journal article.
A similar study analyzing direct and indirect effects of investments in cycling has been carried out for the Brussels region in Belgium by the region’s transport authority. Looking at the situation in 2002 and 2012 and projecting the results into the near future (2020), the study found that investments in cycling yielded returns that were 5 to 9 times higher than the original investments already under current conditions. An ambitious cycling policy would lead to societal gains in Brussels of around €300 to 550 million, which would be 8 to 19 times the original investment. Furthermore, 500 additional jobs linked to cycling could be created until 2020. Against this background, the investments in cycling announced in the recent coalition agreement for the Brussels regional government are a first step in the right direction, provided they will actually be implemented.
Click on image for full report (in French).
Cycling investments in the United States have also proven to pay off. In 2005, the US Federal Highway Administration started a pilot programme to support active mobility in four communities (Non-motorised Transportation Pilot Program, NTPP). The follow-up report now published shows that with investments of $88.5 million, 85.1 million vehicle miles (137 million km) were avoided between 2009 and 2013. The number of walking trips increased by 22.8%, while the number of bicycle trips increased by an even more impressive 48.3%. Despite these increases, a 20% decline in pedestrian fatalities and a decline of 28.6% in cyclist fatalities could be noted. Reduced economic costs of mortality from bicycling alone were at $46.3 million in 2013. Petrol savings were estimated at 3.6 million gallons (ca. 13.6 million liters) between 2009 and 2013 and CO2 emissions averted at almost 35,000 tons during the same period. Air pollution was also significantly decreased.
Click on image for full report.
What all these studies show is that money invested in cycling is money well spent, since benefits clearly outweigh costs. At European level, ECF therefore calls for a tenfold increase in cycling investment, from €600 million in the financial framework 2007 to 2013 to €6 billion in the current framework from 2014 to 2020. This is also one of the ten recommendations submitted to the incoming European Parliament for the next legislature.