The benefits of cycling

The benefits of cycling: Viewing cyclists as travellers rather than non-motorists

Publisher's full text
Jonas Eliasson

Purpose – This chapter provides a think piece on economic evaluation and policy for cycling. Bicycle investments are often motivated by a desire to improve health, the environment and congestion conditions. However, we argue that since the bicycle is a part of the transport system, it should be evaluated as such. Focusing on implications for cycling appraisal in general, we also discuss two conflicting trends in Stockholm: a sharp decrease in cycling in the outer areas, and a sharp increase in the inner parts.

Methodology – We use (i) travel survey data to analyse the potential to reduce congestion through improvements for cyclists, (ii) travel survey data from 1986 to 1987 and 2004 and bicycle counts over 25 years and (iii) a value of time survey of Stockholm cyclists including questions of exercise habits.

Findings – Additional benefits in appraisal from reduced car traffic and improved health seem to be small. Given bicyclists’ high values of time and low investment costs, bicycling investments are still likely to be socially beneficial. The conflicting bicycling trends can be explained by (i) increased road congestion and improved bicycle infrastructure, (ii) increased visibility of bicyclists generating a ‘positive spiral’, (iii) increased interest in physical fitness and changes in the relative prices of cars versus central residences turn cycling into a high-status mode and (iv) in peripheral areas, increasing distances and less dense land use patterns decrease cycling levels.

Practical implications – The results underscore the need for dense, mixeduse spatial planning and ‘smart’ marketing using the effects of cyclist visibility to reinforce the ‘status’ of cycling.

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