Six times more expensive to travel by car than by bicycle: study

May 12, 2015, Lund University
Credit: Steffen Thoma/Public Domain

It is six times more expensive for society - and for you individually - if you travel by car instead of cycling. This has been shown in a Lund University study of Copenhagen, a city of cyclists. It is the first time a price has been put on car use as compared to cycling.

In the comparative study, Stefan Gössling from Lund University and Andy S. Choi from the University of Queensland have investigated a cost-benefit analysis that the Copenhagen Municipality uses to determine whether new infrastructure should be built.

It considers how much cars cost and how they compare to bicycles in terms of , climate change, travel route, noise, road wear, health and congestion in Copenhagen.

The study concluded that cars have a greater negative impact on the economy than bicycles:

If the costs to society and the costs to private individuals are added together, the impact of the car is EUR 0.50 per kilometre and the impact of the bicycle is EUR 0.08 per kilometre.

The study by Stefan Gössling and his colleague also shows that if we only look at costs/benefits for society, one kilometre by car costs EUR 0.15, whereas society earns EUR 0.16 on every kilometre cycled.

"The cost-benefit analysis in Copenhagen shows that investments in cycling infrastructure and bike-friendly policies are economically sustainable and give high returns", says Stefan Gössling.

Cost-benefit analysis is a method used to calculate the benefits to society of infrastructure investments.

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34 comments

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EWH
1 / 5 (3) May 12, 2015
Unless you factor in arriving at work all sweaty, or rain-soaked and mud-spattered, or half-frozen, or not arriving at work at all because you got creamed by a bus (with tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills plus lifelong pain) or got your wheel jammed in a trolley track. Not to mention being unable to live more than ten miles from work, traveling at one-third the speed of a car being unable to shop for more than a couple of bags of anything at a time. Other than that, bikes are great.
bjorn_abelsson
4 / 5 (4) Jun 11, 2015
Having commuted by bike all year around for several decades, I find EWH:s comment rather ignorant.
Sweaty, wet or dirty, yes that happens. But instead of having a shower at home and then go by car or bus to work, you can as well go by bike and then have your shower there.
Traffic accidents, yes they happen too. But the health disadvantages from bicycle accidents are less than one tenth of the health advantages from the physical exercise that cycling gives. So in general, cycling is better for your health than going by car.
Trolley tracks may be found in some cities. But as well as driving a car requires some alertness and skill, so does riding a bike. An experienced biker learns to cross trolley tracks at a right angle, to avoid beeing jammed.
Distance is a deterrant for biking, that is true. But if all those people who live less than ten miles from work choose to bike, there will be plenty of room in the streets for those who live more far away to go by car.
bjorn_abelsson
5 / 5 (3) Jun 11, 2015
Speed is not a problem for biking. In big cities it is often faster to go by bike than by car or public transport. I used to live in Stockholm with 16 km to work. The bike took 35 minutes, the bus 40 minutes and the car 45 minutes (during peak hours). And if you choose the bike, you have done your daily exercise when you get home. If you go by car or public transport, you will need to use some time for exercise in the evening.
When you need to transport more than a few bags, the bike is not very convenient, I agree. But with a good backpack you can carry all you need almost every day of the week and take the car only on those few occasions when you need its load capacity.
And I forgot about cold. Winters in Sweden may be rather cold, with temperatures below zero centigrade from November through March. But cold has never been a problem, it is only a matter of adequate clothing. Getting too warm is a bigger problem than not beeing able to keep warm enough.
antigoracle
2 / 5 (4) Jun 11, 2015
You know what's even better than biking?
Walking.

But since we got to live with the propaganda, I do wish these morons on their bikes would not ride like the rules of the road are for everyone else but them.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (3) Jun 11, 2015
What value do you place on you life?

bjorn_abelsson
5 / 5 (1) Jun 12, 2015
Not to bike is to go too far . . .
Commuting by foot is, as opposite to commuting by bike, rather distance sensitive. Biking is at least three times faster than walking, so you will cover a ten times bigger area with a bicycle than by foot, given a fixed time available for commuting.

But of course, cyclists should follow traffic rules like all other.

My life is precious to me. Therefore I try to live as healthy as possible, e.g. by giving my body its daily dosis of physical exercise by commuting by bike. Sitting still in a car is much more dangerous than beeing physically active on a bike. Actually, sitting still is the worst thing you can do, even more dangerous than smoking.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Jun 12, 2015
If a bicycle hits an auto or an auto hits a bicycle, the bicycle loses.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Jun 12, 2015
How is the bicycle infrastructure going to be paid for? Bicycle taxes?
Roads and heavy vehicles will still be needed to moving products. How will those roads be paid for?
And, the study was in small, densely populated area that won't apply in most parts of the world.
barakn
5 / 5 (1) Jun 12, 2015
The fat slob in the auto is going to die of diabetes or a heart attack. Everything is risky.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (2) Jun 12, 2015
Where I am they have started dedicating entire lanes to bicycles. If their is a single bike every hour on the road, it's plenty. Just the beginning of the AGW propaganda directing government policy while ignoring the true cost.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Jun 12, 2015
Let's see how many are riding bikes when the wind is blowing 20-30 mph and the temperature is 0 deg F.

A transportation system must be designed for extremes.

After several feet of snow this winter in Boston, most of the rail and subway systems were shut down. Streets were narrow due to piles of snow, sidewalks were filled with snow and people had to walk on the street. Didn't see too many bikes.

For most people, an auto is requirement for mobility while a bike is a luxury. A very hazardous and infrequent luxury.
bjorn_abelsson
5 / 5 (1) Jun 15, 2015
I do not know where you guys live. But I get a feeling that at least some of you are USAmericans. Let me tell you something: The US of A is just a tiny part of the world!

Now to the arguments: Accidents do happen, occasionaly. But inactivity always causes bad health.

Bicycle infrastructure can easily be paid for with the money society does not have to pay for medical care.

In cities like Copenhagen or Groningen more people commute by bike than by car. To a small fraction of the costs, both for the individual and the society.

Extreme weather stops the bike. But cars too have difficulties with piles of snow. I have an awd car, but have been stuck in the snow several times, when I still have been able to ride my bike. You can carry your bike through the bigges piles, not the car.

For most people in the world, the car is luxury.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) Jun 15, 2015
The US of A is just a tiny part of the world!

No, Sweden is a tiny part of the world. It it the size one US state.
society does not have to pay for medical care.

'Society' does not pay for medical care, people do.
In cities like Copenhagen or Groningen more people commute by bike than by car.

Taxes on cars AND fuel taxes make cars very expensive. One of the first things Scandinavians do who get to the States to live/work is buy a car.
been stuck in the snow several times,

Don't know how to drive in snow? Or Sweden doesn't know how to plow snow?
For most people in the world, the car is luxury.

Most people live in socialist tyrannies and centrally planned economies.
barakn
3 / 5 (1) Jun 15, 2015
No, Sweden is a tiny part of the world. It it the size one US state.

...says the person who just tried to convince us that bikes can't be utilized as reliable transportation in San Francisco because it snows in Boston.
jeffensley
5 / 5 (1) Jun 15, 2015
We continue to pour money into automobile infrastructure which is just a short-term patch on the bigger transportation problem. It's time for more communities to invest in biking infrastructure. It's cheaper, requires less repair, and allows a society plagued by illness related to physical inactivity to get out and get some exercise. More highways and more parking lots do not a better society make.
bjorn_abelsson
3 / 5 (1) Jun 16, 2015
Well, ryggesogn, where do you get your picture of the world? From Fox news? Of course, Sweden is even more tiny than the US of A. And of course, China gives a big contribution to the number of people that live in centrally planned economies. Still, not even in China live "most of the people", nor do they live in other centrally planned economies (apart from China, not many do!). And of course "society", which is the state, the communities, all companies and organizations and all the people, does pay for medical care, as well as for everything else. "Society" is far more than "state" or "public sector".

Scandinavians also do own cars. And driving on cleared roads is no big deal. The snow only stays tough as long as it is not cleared. And most cars get stuck before the bikes do.
bjorn_abelsson
3 / 5 (1) Jun 16, 2015
PS. In civilized countries the public sector actually pays most of the costs for medical care. Hopefully, USA is getting more civilized recently, as medical care is beginning to be offered also to the poor people.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) Jun 16, 2015
It's cheaper, requires less repair, and allows a society plagued by illness related to physical inactivity to get out and get some exercise.


Roads are still required for trucks and for those who can't ride bicycles.

"Society" is far more than "state" or "public sector".


Of course it is, but it is the state that plunders the wealth.

public sector actually pays most of the costs for medical care.


Which is wealth plundered from individuals who earn that wealth.
bjorn_abelsson
3 / 5 (1) Jun 16, 2015
I have not heard anyone in this discussion, or in any other discussion on mobility management, that argues that cars and trucks should be completely taken away. But for many of those trips that are shorter than a few miles (in Europe, about 50 per cent of all car trips are shorter than 5 km), the bike is a viable alternative for most healthy people. And it is often cheaper (and always safer!) to build a cycle road adjacent to the road than to broaden the road to cater for also cyclists.
I have neither heard any one argue that the state should be completely abolished, even if some right-wing politicians argue for a very small state. On the issue of medical care, USA has the most expensive medical care system of all industrialized countries (17,2 % of GDP in 2011), yet USA ranks 26th of the 36 OECD countries on life expectancy. It seems to me that money spent on public health care is well spent, not plundered. As is money spent on bike infrastructure.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) Jun 16, 2015
the bike is a viable alternative for most healthy people.

Now it's an 'alternative'.
And roads are still required.
money spent on public health care is well spent

Ask those who have died waiting for treatment under socialized medicine.

And the USA is NOT a private system. Over 50% IS govt run, 'public health care', Medicare and Medicaid.
US law requires hospital emergency rooms treat all regardless of ability to pay. Someone must pay or the emergency rooms are out of business. When the govt refuses to pay up, private insurance, private payors subsidize the state.

bjorn_abelsson
5 / 5 (1) Jun 16, 2015
"Ask those who have died waiting for treatment under socialized medicine."

Obviously fewer than in the US system, since life expectancy is much lower in the US than in most European countries.

And the combination of private and public financing of the US health care system is probably one explanation why it is soo expensive and yet soo inefficient. A true private system might be expensive but efficient, a public system might be cheap but inefficient. Now it is expensive and inefficient.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Jun 16, 2015
Life expectancy:

Rank Country Years
35 EU 80.02
41 Finland 79.69
42 USA 79.56
47 Denmark 79.09

https://www.cia.g...ank.html

"life expectancy is much lower "

Much = .5 year
antigoracle
1 / 5 (1) Jun 16, 2015
Not to bike is to go too far . . .
Commuting by foot is, as opposite to commuting by bike, rather distance sensitive. Biking is at least three times faster than walking, so you will cover a ten times bigger area with a bicycle than by foot, given a fixed time available for commuting.

Uh huh, and you cannot say the same for driving vs biking?
bjorn_abelsson
not rated yet Jun 17, 2015
Antigoracle:
Actually not. In many big cities, biking is actually faster than going by car, at least for distances under 10 miles (16 km). If you then add to the actual commuting time the time you need for daily exercise, if you commute by car, and the time you need to earn the money that commuting by car costs, then bike is always faster than car.

bjorn_abelsson
not rated yet Jun 17, 2015
Well, obviously there are different data on life expectancy. In Wikipedia they say that USA is on place 34-40 with 79 years, compared to Sweden on place 8-18 with 82 years. About the same is said by CIA World Factbook and WHO. So to me it seems more like 3 years than .5.

Anyway, USA does not get many life years for its very expensive health care system. Possibly, americans would live longer if they used more money on bike infrastructure and less on health care.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2015
obviously there are different data on life expectancy


Compare Sweden with Wisconsin or Minnesota, not the entire USA.

I compared the US with the EU. The difference was .5 year.
bjorn_abelsson
5 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2015
Well, the newest members of EU have not been there for very long, while USA have had some hundred years to decrease the differences between their states. So I do not think that it is quite fair to include the rather poor new members in EU from the eastern parts of Europe if you want to compare life expectancy in Europe and USA.

And if you do, you must take into account that the GDP in USA is higher than in any EU country, except Luxembourg. And since I compared medical costs in percentage of GDP, this makes it even more clear that USA get very little life expectancy out of its very expensive health care system.

Maybe you should really try more biking?
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) Jun 17, 2015
decrease the differences between their states.

That is not the way the USA is supposed to work.
States are supposed to compete with each other and not a collection of socialist states.
very little life expectancy out of its very expensive health care system.

How much of that cost has benefited Europe and the R.o.W. when so much medical technology is invented in the US and paid for by US patients?

"Americans tend to receive more new treatments and pay more for them — a fact that is usually regarded as a fault of the American system. That interpretation, if not entirely wrong, is at least incomplete. Rapid adoption and extensive use of new treatments and technologies create an incentive to develop those techniques in the first place. When the United States subsidizes medical innovation, the whole world benefits. That is a virtue of the American system that is not reflected in comparative life expectancy and mortality statistics."
http://www.cato.org
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2015
"The famous Swedish health care system is a good example. 120 000 hospital beds in the late 1960s became 20 000 today. Cancer patients are put on waiting lists for months. Entire emergency wards shut down for summer. "

"Another Norwegian business gone down the drain and another Muslim business popped up. (Which is extremely common here.)

I'm moving back to the U.S. either at the end of this year, early or mid next. America has its fair share of problems, but at least I can afford to pay rent AND own a car there."

http://swedenrepo...-sweden/
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2015
" Tired of long waits and inadequate care, Swedes increasingly purchase private health insurance policies to gain access to the care the state can't provide."

""It's quicker to get a colleague back to work if you have an operation in two weeks' time rather than having to wait for a year," privately insured Anna Norlander told Sveriges Radio on Friday. "It's terrible that I, as a young person, don't feel I can trust the health care system to take care of me.""

"Swedes are turning to private medicine to escape the long lines and poor service of the government health system that has been unable to deliver what it once promised."

http://reason.com...e-health
bjorn_abelsson
not rated yet Jun 18, 2015
I think that all countries have to ration medical care in some way. If we should give everybody every treatment they would like to have, we would not have any resources left to anything else than medical care. The US has chosen to ration by money; those who can afford treatment get it, the poor get it not. In most European countries we ration by need and to some extent by queues.

I am grateful to the excellent medical research in USA, that has also been rewarded with many Nobel prizes. But I do not believe that it has been transferred to "the R. o. W." as a charity. American companies are known to get well paid for their products, and medical companies earn a lot of money.

It is a good thing that people can choose where to live. If some people like to live in the country with the highest homicide rates in the (industrialized?) world, the most obese people and with very little social security, thats fine with me.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Jun 18, 2015
I think that all countries have to ration medical care in some way.

Only the socialist ones where it is 'free'.

medical companies earn a lot of money.


Which is reinvested to create more products and innovations. It's called capitalism.

highest homicide rates


"South Africa has a homicide rate of more than 30 per 100,000 people, while the US rate is less than five per 100,000."
http://www.busine...-2014-11

In 2002, Sweden was #2 on total per capita crime, 138/1000.
US was 41/1000
http://www.nation...per-1000
bjorn_abelsson
3 / 5 (1) Jun 18, 2015
In the US Medical care is rationed by the costs. Only those who can pay (are insured) are treated. Most Insurance policies include limits for what they pay for and not.

I did not critizise neither capitalism nor market economy. But I do not believe that US companies subsidizes medical innovation. They let their customers (US and others) pay for it.

South Africa is hardly an industrialized country.

Your source says: "Crime statistics are often better indicators of prevalence of law enforcement and willingness to report crime, than actual prevalence." But if we forget that, Sweden ranks high on burglary and auto theft, while USA ranks high on homicide. I know what I prefer. Besides, USA has ten times as many people in prison, per inhabitant, as Sweden. So of course, if you incapacitate a substantial part of the population by sending them to jail, you might decrease crime rates.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Jun 18, 2015
Only those who can pay (are insured) are treated.

False.
Emergency rooms are required to treat regardless of ability to pay. But someone MUST pay or the hospital is out of business. Doctors and nurses are not slaves and won't work for nothing.

Now, under Obama socialized medicine, people who can pay cash, who are 'self insured' may not be able to do so.

US companies subsidizes medical innovation.


It's called reinvesting profits. NO profit, NO reinvestment, NO research.

South Africa is hardly an industrialized country.

Says who?

Do you cycle much in Malmo? I hear even the police dare not tread in some Malmo neighborhoods.

. I know what I prefer.

Do you like having you stuff stolen?
Most homicides are not random and are committed by people the victim knows, or they are the result of other criminal activity, gangs, drugs.
You are more likely to be the victim of a crime in Sweden than in the US.

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