How does investing in walking and cycling pay off for cities and citizens?

Studies of impact assessments of investments in cycling and other active transport infrastructure pays off for society far more than the actual cost of investment.

Where do these societal benefits come from?

Active transportation = a two for one deal!

Walking or cycling to where you’re going means you get physical activity and transportation at the same time. Globally, 1 in 4 adults and 4 out of 5 adolescents are not active enough according to the WHO[1]. But even just 30 minutes of physical activity such as walking or cycling five times a week can make a difference for your health (1 hour daily is recommended for children)[2]. Walking and cycling to school, work or in your free time is a great way to get those 30 minutes in and do something good for your health.

 Cut out dirty air

More active transportation also pays off because it doesn’t emit harmful air pollution. Researchers estimate that dirty air contributes to nearly 800 000 premature deaths per year in Europe.[3] A higher number than premature deaths from smoking. But this trend can be changed. The City of Ghent in Belgium for example, measured a near 20 percent decrease in pollution one year after reducing motorized traffic and promoting walking and cycling in their city center![4]

Socio-economic benefits

Apart from the benefits that good health has for individuals they also add up to big impacts on a societal level in terms of health care costs and other socio-economic benefits. The municipality of Helsinki calculated that every euro they invest in new cycling infrastructure leads to nearly eight euros in health and socio-economic benefits[5].

Strengthens local businesses

Cyclists and pedestrians also benefit the local economy. A study from New York showed a 49 percent increase in revenue at local businesses after a new bike lane was installed[6]. And employees that bicycle to work have less sick days on average than non-cycling colleagues[7].

Cities for people

Investing in walking and cycling means investing in a healthy and vibrant city – a city built for people. And that’s worth investing in.

If you want to read more about the socio-economic benefits of cycling, see this report from the European Cyclists’ Federation.

 

 

[1] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity

[2] https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_adults/en/ and https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity

[3]https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/12/air-pollution-deaths-are-double-previous-estimates-finds-research and https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/article/40/20/1590/5372326

[4] http://www.flanderstoday.eu/ghents-circulation-plan-leads-sharp-drop-pollution and https://newmobility.news/2018/08/29/ghent-air-quality-32-better-since-new-circulation-plan/

[5] https://issuu.com/helsinkisuunnittelee/docs/pyorailykatsaus_2015_en_issuu

[6] http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2012-10-measuring-the-street.pdf

[7]https://www.researchgate.net/publication/44802659_The_association_between_commuter_cycling_and_sickness_absence