Fitter, Happier, More Productive: The Health, Social, and Economic Benefits of Bikes


Health Benefits of Bicycling


  • According to the federal government, biking for transportation can count toward the minimum 150 minutes/week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity recommended for physical health.  It is also listed as the safest way to get physical activity. – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008, 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

check out lots more statistics at

Benefits of Cycling to Communities


  • The encouragement of additional cycling makes good economic sense. Its a low cost form of transport at about 1c/km compared to over 50c/km for a car. This equates to a saving of approximately $1M for every 1,000 people who ride 5km to work for 40 weeks over a 12 month period.33
  • Demand management measures and cycleways are extremely economic at improving the efficiency of existing roads and deferring new road construction. The South Perth TravelSmart pilot achieved a sustained 17% reduction in car kilometres travelled and a cost-benefit ratio of 30:1. The Perth Bicycle Network was 12:1, compared with roads commonly at 4:1 or less.34
  • Communities that have been designed to encourage alternative transport modes (walking and cycling), appear to encourage people to live closer to community facilities and interact more with each other.35 This would also improve social capital and reduce social isolation.
  • Replacing short car trips with bike rides can help local communities as more goods and services then tend to be purchased locally. Increased numbers of cyclists within a neighbourhood has also been shown to reduce traffic travelling at high speeds. This can increase a sense of safety in the local area, which may encourage more visitors and attract new businesses and jobs.36
  • The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation (DBPT) commissioned a study to examine the value of public investment in bicycle facilities. The study concluded that bicycling activity in the study area provides substantial economic benefits an estimated $60 million annually; that the bicycle facilities in the area are an important factor for many tourists in deciding to visit the region; and that investment in bicycle facilities improves the safety of the transportation system for all users and also benefits health and fitness, quality of life and the environment.37

Benefits of Bike Commuting


  • Significant savings can be made by providing parking for bicycles rather than cars. Between 14 and 20 bikes can be parked in the space required to park one car.38 Land currently reserved for car parking could be utilised more economically if companies can encourage more cycling: companies can save monies paid on employer and employee car-parking place rentals.39 The average cost of building a car parking space in a multi-level parking station has been estimated at $12,500 – $14,500. This compares with $150 for providing a bike rack.40
  • Some studies have shown that businesses that encourage staff to cycle to work, benefit from increased productivity as a result of improved fitness and mental health. Staff who cycle are reported to be more punctual and take less sick days.41 One study has shown that absenteeism can be reduced 14% – 80% by encouraging cycling to work.42
  • Studies conducted in Europe have estimated a physically inactive person who starts to ride to work instead of using a car gives an economic benefit to the community of approximately 3,000-4,000 Euro per year.43
  • The UK Traffic Advisory Unit estimated that workplaces that implemented cycling strategies received a $1.33 – $6.50 return for each $1 spent in cycle promotion due to increased productivity.44

check out studies from around the world at


The Economics of Bike Boulevards


Given the overwhelming support for the Austin Master Bike Plan and successful recent implementation of new bicycle infrastructure, it was a bit surprising to hear the vocal opposition to the City of Austin plan to convert Nueces Street to a bicycle boulevard. Time and again both at the meeting and in the press, we heard some property owners say bikes were all fine and good, but putting a bicycle boulevard on their street would lower property values, hurt business, and generally create an economic Armageddon in northwest downtown. Unfortunately, while City staff were very prepared to talk about the what bike boulevards look like and do to the physical space, they had no good answer to these legitimate economic concerns about what is essentially uncharted territory for Austin bike infrastructure.

Are we asking that these businesses be sacrificed for the greater public good? Hardly.  A quick look at what other cities have done to calm traffic and create space for pedestrians and bicycles have done nothing but improve property values and business in general. An August 2008 Transportation Alternatives multi-city study found that reducing automobile traffic on streets increased property values from anywhere between 10-30% after calming was implemented. Moreover for owners of commercial property, tenant vacancy rates improve in one instance having vacancy rates falling an astonishing 70% to 20% within five years of implementing measures to reduce car traffic. As for retail business, there is only upside with sales jumping an average of 10-25% with the creation of multi-modal space. Increased pedestrian and bicycle use appears to be very good for business. keep reading at

This entry was posted in Auto Independence, can bicycles save the world?, Climate Change, Culture, human scale, Livability, Placemaking, Sustainability, Transportation, Uncategorized, urban design, urban planning, walkable, What if? and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Fitter, Happier, More Productive: The Health, Social, and Economic Benefits of Bikes

  1. Have you found anything on whether electric bikes make any difference to the type of infrastructure needed, or the viability as an option to more people? How significantly would it decrease the benefits?

  2. Pingback: Why Biking RULES « The Clean Hippie

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