Monday, 27 June 2011

Cycling infrastructure is cheaper to build than not to build

I've often written before about the growing network of inter-city cycling superhighways in the Netherlands.

Sometimes people wonder how the country can afford to build such infrastructure for cyclists. However, given the benefits which accumulate to the country from increased cycle usage, cycling should never be seen as a cost so much as as a benefit.

A new report from the Fietsberaad spells this out for the superhighways:

The proceeds that can be attributed to bicycle highways considerably outweigh the costs. The next couple of years approximately €100 million will be invested in bicycle highways in the Netherlands. That will lead to future annual profits of at least €144 million in travel time gained, better health and environmental benefits.
Goudappel Coffeng consultants has calculated this by means of a traffic model. It employed two different scenarios: one involving the construction of 675 km of bicycle highways and another one with the additional assumption that by 2020 half of all cyclists will employ an electric bicycle.
The number of car journeys will fall by 0.7% in the first scenario and if the electric bicycle continues its advance, by 1.6%. The number of journeys by public transport falls more: by 0.9% and 2.7% respectively. The number of bicycle journeys increases by 1.3 and 3.3% respectively.
Goudappel also studied the mobility effects for the region Rotterdam/Den Haag in particular. There car use decreases by 1.4 and 2.3% respectively and public transport by 2.3 and 3.9% respectively. The number of bicycle journeys increases there by 2.2 and 3.8% respectively.
For the entire country, improved bicycle provisions will cause travel times by car to fall by 3.8 million hours, as a result of less congestion, and 9.4 million hours due to increased use of electric bikes respectively. Assuming a value of € 10 for an hour’s travel by car, this will yield approximately € 40 million a year in the case with only bicycle highways, growing to €100 million with bicycle highways in combination with an increased use of electric bicycles. Health effects will contribute another €250 million to the ‘electric scenario’ according to the model calculation, as well as €8 million thanks to the CO2 reduction. Overall this leads to a profit of €358 million. For the scenario without electric bicycles Goudappel calculates proceeds of €144 million annually.

While it's normally quicker to cycle than to drive in the Netherlands, it's also worth reflecting on that cycle infrastructure makes journeys better for drivers too.


Tejvan Pettinger said...

Plus, much cheaper than driving to nearest gym and paying £40 a month to go around on treadmill (like some in UK do.

A forward thinking report.

Richard Mann said...

The economics of these work out because there's a lot of potential users. It works the same, but only on a smaller, cheaper scale, if you haven't got a lot of latent demand.

Tullik said...

I have just finished reading an extract from the Lancet Medical Journal in which the Netherlands is recognized as one of the countries with the lowest rates (per capita) for Type 2 Diabetes, this is one area that right life style choices and availability of such an infrastructure will result in a healthier population. In an aging demographic world wide with limited medical resources do we not wish to see these $s being used towards diseases that are NOT preventable.
In Vancouver (Canada) we have a radio host (D.Pratt) who rants daily against bike lanes in our city, some people just don't get the message.

Arno S said...

I am surprised that the health effect is so large with electric bicycles included. Numbers imply a health benefit of close to e100 million for bicycle only and e250 million with electric bicycles included. I would think that electric bikes would have a lower health benefit due to reduced exercise - not a larger benefit.

David Hembrow said...

Arno: You're absolutely right that a non-electric bike will have a bigger effect.

However, their expectation is that electric bikes will result in more people making a long commute than would otherwise do so.

Personally, I think the Fietsberaad, like many other people in the world these days, are a little too enthusiastic about electric bikes (I would go into this more, but this isn't the post for it).

Neil said...

Maybe I'm misunderstanding the numbers, but isn't it saying there is only a profit for the 50% eletric assist situation. So a loss for the cycle only scenario. If so that is disappointing, although worth noting these are long distance routes, so not the normal utility users.

David Hembrow said...

Neil: What it actually says is that if you invest €100 million once then you gain back €144 million annually. Basically, it's almost impossible for this to fail. Even if they achieve a tenth of what they say, they're still looking at "profit" within seven years.

amoeba said...

Ever so slightly off-topic, insofar as it relates to the USA, this new report H/T Climate Progress. I believe you'll find it interesting. Let's hope it's noticed. Above all, I hope it's noticed in the UK and has a positive effect.


Heidi Garrett-Peltier

Political Economy Research Institute

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

June 2011

From Executive Summary
'….We evaluate 58 separate projects and present the results by project, by city, and by category. Overall we find that bicycling infrastructure creates the most jobs for a given level of spending: For each $1 million, the cycling projects in this study create a total of 11.4 jobs within the state where the project is located. Pedestrian-only projects create an average of about 10 jobs per $1 million and multi-use trails create nearly as many, at 9.6 jobs per $1 million....'

Conclusions excerpt
'The U.S. is currently experiencing high unemployment, unsustainable use of carbon-based energy,
and a national obesity epidemic. All three of these problems can be partly addressed through increased walking and cycling. Providing pedestrian and cycling infrastructure for the purposes of commuting, recreation, and fitness, is arguably more important than ever before. In addition, this study finds that designing and building this infrastructure can also address the problem of unemployment, by creating jobs for engineers, construction workers, and workers who produce the asphalt, signs, and other construction materials....'

kfg said...

" . . .carbon-based energy. . ."

Also known as "food." I don't recommend eliminating it.

". . .creating jobs . . ."

Ah yes; the obligatory Job Creation Dodge. It's a dodge because it can be applied to anything and is therefore meaningless. Hey, hit men have to eat too you know?

Yes, I know why they put it in there, however, much of our troubles come applying meaningless reasons to support meaningless projects that only serve to enrich a few at the top, dissipate the general wealth and destroy our standard of living.

If prefer the What Needs Doing Solution approach.

Daniel Sparing said...

In theory, only those public investments should be made which are "cheaper to build than not to build", i.e. the benefit-to-cost ratio is larger than one. This is required for highways, airports etc. too.

The two problems are only (1) are these calculations correct, especially regarding the always underestimated costs, (2) what numbers do you use for soft values, such as how much is a human life worth.