Cycling equals big financial benefits plus fewer cars, says new study

An inner city regional bicycle network would deliver at least $506 million - or $3.88 for every dollar spent - in net economic benefits over 30 years, according to a major new study.

The City of Sydney commissioned study by AECOM* found the network would reduce Sydney's traffic congestion by 4.3 million car trips a year.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP today welcomed the study, saying: "The study is the first of its kind to comprehensively capture the economic benefits of major cycling infrastructure.

"For the first time we have an evidence-based report that puts a real value on the health and lifestyle benefits of cycling. We're talking about people living longer, having less chronic diseases and having a better quality of life - just by getting on a bike.

"What this study has found is that a bicycle network linking Kogarah in the south, with Chatswood in the north and Watsons Bay in the east with Rhodes in the west is economically desirable and viable.

"We can say with confidence that investment in cycling as a mode of transport will deliver a solid economic return," Ms Moore said.

The study forecasts a 66 per cent increase in bike trips by 2016 and a 71 per cent rise by 2026 if the 284 km network - spanning 15 council areas, 164 suburbs and a population of 1.2 million people - is built at a cost of $179 million.

The proposed project is in addition to the City's current $76 million works program to build 200km of cycleways in the City Centre and inner city villages by 2017.

The benefit in reducing congestion alone is estimated to be worth $97.8 million or $4.07 for every commuter switching from a car to bicycle during peak periods.

The study found that building the network would provide $147.3 million in health benefits for the next 30 years, potentially saving Sydney commuters from a raft of chronic diseases from heart disease to Type 2 Diabetes.

"Sydneysiders' enthusiastic take up of cycling over the past few years has shown us that cycling is an important mode of transport for our future. While the health and environmental benefits have long been acknowledged, the economic benefits have now been revealed," added Ms Moore.

"Cycleways are a real transport solution for our densely populated city. They not only get people around faster, cheaper and more efficiently, but generate substantial economic benefits for the NSW economy.

"An inner Sydney regional cycle network makes economic sense because it makes bike riding safer, takes cars off the road, reduces obesity and heart disease, brings cleaner air and improves worker productivity," Ms Moore said.

"The fact is, cycling is integral to Sydney's future transport needs and the Federal

Government has a major role to play in funding this future."

The project will generate 70 new jobs a year for nine years.

From Sydney Media


I've attached a report completed a few months ago, evaluating the cycling benefits and costs for Sydney.  Although it is sometimes hard to translate some of the specifics to another city, I think there are some general principles  that could be of relevance:
1.  If you build the infrastructure, you create the demand.
2.  When you attain the higher usage rates, there are considerable savings to Governments by taking pressure off other infrastructure. The multiplier ratio came out at approx 1:3, i.e for every dollar you spend on cycling infrastructure you save three elsewhere.
3.  There are considerable quality of life benefits for those that choose to cycle, and if usage rates can be lifted, also for those that don't cycle via decreased congestion.  I am led to believe that this is the first time someone has sat down and attempted to quantify the benefits of cycling for a southern hemisphere city.


Dr Anthony Clark
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd.

Download study here (PDF 4.4MB)

PDF icon AECOM_ReportApril2010.pdf4.44 MB