Melbourne separated cycle path
A Melburnian taking advantage of great infrastructure to save Australia money

From much of the rhetoric heard around cycling, you would think that it was an activity that required huge amounts of spending with very little economic return.

However, the clear evidence is very much in favour of the opposite view. The investment needed to encourage cycling as an everyday activity is tiny compared to roading or public transportprojects and the return on that investment is huge.

To back that up, there are a number of articles based on studies easily located by a quick Google search. Here are some that came to my attention.

In 2013, a study cited by the then Australian Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, found that:

The economy benefits by more than $21 every time a person cycles 20 minutes to work and back and $8.50 each time a person walks 20 minutes to and from work

Danes saving their country money
Danes saving their country money

This is backed up by similar findings in Denmark that each kilometre cycled actually saves the country money while every kilometre driven costs the economy.

When all these factors are added together the net social gain is DKK 1.22 per cycled kilometer. For purposes of comparison there is a net social loss of DKK 0.69 per kilometer driven by car.
This takes into account social gains which goes beyond strictly economic benefits as with the Australian study:
such as transport costs, security, comfort, branding/tourism, transport times and health.

The European Union has found similar benefits from cycling in the EU.

Evidence like this is why the UK has actually started to pay people to cycle to work. Not surprising when the Department for Transport in the UK has found that the benefit cost ratio of cycling investment is off the chart – up to a 1:35 ratio.

Beach Rd photo 4
Aucklanders enjoying the first real piece of high quality onroad separated infrastructure – a bargain for the price

This means that for every $1 invested in cycling, we can expect a $35 return. That’s the equivalent of backing a rank outsider at the gee-gees and having it come home in first place. This is in stark contrast to some of the anaemic BCRs coming out for the Roads of (Dubious) National Significance – such as the Kapiti Expressway.

Unfortunately, evidence based policy and actual transport policy in New Zealand are distant cousins at best. Transport investment appears to be based on ideological grounds and emotional reactions from the public.

But next time someone tries to tell you how crazy it is to “waste” money on cycling, you have a few more facts up your sleeve.

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Funding Infrastructure Research
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