Economic benefits of cycling
Here is a summary of a position paper on the economic benefits of cycling produced by Cyclist.ie, the umbrella organisation for cycling advocates.
Cycling brings proven and massive benefits to society. Governments everywhere are investing in cycling. Here are the seven reasons why the Irish government should urgently seek to develop a strong cycling culture.
Super-efficient Transport: Cycling is, by far, the most energy efficient form of non-polluting transport and it goes point-to-point.
Health: Cycling, as an activity, is about as safe as driving but unlike driving, it is aerobic exercise and so combats obesity/over-weight, diabetes, heart-attack, stroke and absenteeism from work. Consequently the health benefit-to-risk ratios for cycling are excellent, estimated to be between 9:1 and 77:1.
Cycling enhances personal mobility and reduces traffic congestion: Too many motor-powered-vehicles (MPVs) are bad for cities. Ireland is the EU’s 3rd most car-dependent country. Cycling can help because it is a flexible, point-to-point transport mode and it is quicker to travel by bicycle in congested urban areas over distances up to 5-6 km. Bicycles occupy about one sixth of the road space of a car and even less for parking.
Financial Benefits: The government’s National Cycling Policy Framework (2009) estimated that for every €100 million invested in cycling in Ireland, a staggering return of €400 million could be obtained. Cycling promotion is exactly the kind of investment needed during a recession. Key financial gains include reduced expenditure on health, on cars, on road surfaces, on expensive and polluting fossil fuels, on traffic congestion (estimated by the EU to cost 1.5% of GDP, a figure exceeding €2 billion/y in Ireland), and increased tourism revenue from eco-tourists. In Scotland, a country of comparable size to Ireland, it was estimated that if 40% of car trips were shifted to bicycles, the country would benefit by £4 billion/year.
Environmental benefits: Pollution caused by cycling is negligible. This benefits health while helping Ireland comply with EU air quality regulations and targets for reducing transport Greenhouse Gas emissions. By contrast, MPV pollutants contaminate the air, waterways and roadside habitats while relentless road traffic noise attacks the quality of life, especially sleep, for urban residents.
Quality of life: Cycling contributes to a better quality of life. Bicycle-friendly towns are cleaner, healthier, quieter, safer and more liveable. Cycling in the environment, as opposed to driving through it, improves feelings of well-being and strengthens a sense of community. Children can socialise on their own around their neighbourhoods using their bikes and not having to rely on lifts in a car.
Saving lives: In 2009, 238 people were killed and 9,742 were seriously injured on Irish roads (see www.rsa.ie) . The suffering of bereaved families is the human price of over-dependence on MPVs. The estimated financial cost to the taxpayer was €974 million. By reducing MPV traffic and creating a calmer road environment, a cycling revolution would yield the ultimate benefit, the saving of lives.
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