Copenhagen’s focus on encouraging bicycling has not only had an impact on safety and the environment; it also has had a big impact on health. Cycling is good for the body and the mind. It gets people energized for the day and calms them down after work. It also helps exercise the heart and helps people stay in the habit of moving. Cycling also means fewer cars on the road, which leads to a reduction in air and noise pollution.
In early 2012, a Copenhagen-based global alliance of cities, regions, countries, and corporations named Green Growth Leaders released a report titled Copenhagen - Beyond Green. In the report, Green Growth Leaders described the economic and social benefits of biking. Benefits from biking include lower air pollution, less accidents, less congestion, less noise, and less wear and tear on the roads. The report found that for every kilometer traveled by a bike that would have been traveled by an automobile, the taxpayers of Copenhagen save 7.8 cents. Since cyclists in Copenhagen bike more than 1.2 million kilometers per day, Copenhagen taxpayers are saving more than $34 million a year. Health benefits including less sick days used and lower medical expenses save the people of Copenhagen more than $380 million.
In Copenhagen’s most recent biannual bicycle account they looked at all the social benefits related to biking. Social benefits included in their formula included transportation costs, security, comfort, branding/tourism, transport times, and health. According to the report, every kilometer of cycling has a social benefit around 21 cents while every kilometer of driving has a net social loss of around 12 cents.
As talked about in past blog posts, Copenhagen has a plan to building a network of bicycle superhighways leading into the city from the suburbs. Two of those superhighways have already been built out, and both have seen a 10% increase in bicycle traffic already. The plan calls for an additional 26 bicycle superhighways to be built. According to Copenhagen’s local health authority, Region Hovedstaden, once the network is built out, an additional 30,000 people are expected to cycle each day. Also, 15,000 people are expected to switch from driving to cycling. According to The Copenhagen Post, studies have found that cyclists take fewer sick days than non-cyclists. Once all 26 bicycle superhighways are completed, Copenhagen expects 34,000 less sick days to be taken a year across the city. Since the average sick day costs around $300 in lost production on average, the bicycle superhighway network is expected to save Copenhagen $10 million in saved productivity over the next year and $470 million over the next 50 years once you account for the cost of the infrastructure.
Copenhagen is doing many things to encourage cycling. Since cycling has so many positive impacts on safety and the environment, sometimes it’s easy to forget how many positive impacts cycling has on health. Cycling in Copenhagen not only saves citizens money on health costs, it also improves their quality of life.
Bicycle superhighways expected to save society millions by Peter Stannes
The Copenhagen Post
April 24, 2013
Copenhagen's health care system is to save $60M/y with new bike highways
September 20, 2012
Copenhagen's Green Sheen: It's Not Just About The Bikes by Justin Gerdes
January 23, 2012
One mile on a bike is a $.42 economic gain to society, one mile driving is a $.20 loss by Christopher Mims