For the first time, researchers have put a price tag on what it costs to cycle as opposed to driving a car.
The study comes out of Lund University, where researchers looked at the city of Copenhagen, Denmark, well known as a city of cyclists. Stefan Gössling and Andy S. Choi led the team that undertook a cost-benefit analysis of whether or not the Copenhagen Municipality should build new cycling infrastructure.
Their analysis consisted of societal, environmental, and personal costs, factoring in such things as air pollution, climate change, travel route, noise, road wear, health, and congestion in the city of Copenhagen. They also considered the potential economic impacts that could lead to detrimental effects on businesses.
The study calculated down to the euro, the costs and impacts of driving a car as compared to riding a bike. The researchers found that when you factor in the costs of society at large and the costs to private individuals, bikes are a much better way to go.
They calculated that for every kilometer someone drives, they lose about 0.50 euro. However, for every kilometer your ride a bike, people are only losing around 0.08 euro. But if the researchers only look at the cost-to-benefit ratio of society, cars cost 0.15 euro for every kilometer driven, but society gains 0.16 euro for every kilometer peddled. Bottom line: It’s six times more expensive for society to travel by car than by bike.
These results allowed Gössling to conclude in a press release:
“The cost-benefit analysis in Copenhagen shows that investments in cycling infrastructure and bike-friendly policies are economically sustainable and give high returns.”
While this study is limited to one city in a country that already boasts a healthy cycling culture, it would be interesting to evaluate whether new infrastructure would benefit other kinds of rural and urban communities around the world. Take America for instance: We were built on a car culture. But places like New York City could benefit from better bicycle infrastructure. It’s a place where bike riding doesn’t seem to be as encouraged as it should be in such a pedestrian town. It would be interesting to find what roadblocks are preventing it from becoming a well-trafficked city for cyclists.
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