Cycling is not only good for your health, it is also profitable for society. A new study from Denmark shows that sick leave drops by one day per 1,200 kilometres travelled on the cycle track, and what is spent on improving conditions for commuter cyclists comes back to the municipality in saved sick-leave expenses and reduced CO2 emissions.
The city council of Copenhagen has calculated that their 28 new ‘bike super-highways’ — wide enough so that four bikes can ride next to each other – will not only provide the commuter cyclists with better conditions on their way to and from school and work, they will also save the municipality the equivalent of 10 million AUS dollars in public health expenses.
The figures are based on data from the National Institute of Public Health, and they suggest that sick leave on average drops by one day per 1,200 kilometres travelled on the cycle track, saving the municipality approximately 34,000 sick-days, once they are in place.
The figure is based on a study which showed that bike super-highways increase the number of bicycle users by 10 percent. Already, more than 50 percent of all citizens in the capital of Denmark use their bike to get to work or school every day, all year round.
Denmark is currently busy building super bike paths, and has reserved 189 million Danish kroner (approximately 32 million AUS dollars) to build new bike super-highways in the next months.
“Imagine if we could invent something that cut road and rail crowding, cut noise, cut pollution and ill health, something that didn’t fill the atmosphere with dangerous CO2, something that improved life for everyone, quite quickly, without the cost and disruption of new roads and railways. Well, we invented it 200 years ago…”
Text from Danish Cyclists’ Federation banner
Where cycling is a hazard
Coming from Copenhagen, which boasts to be the “world’s leading bicycle city”, to live in the gorgeous city of Geelong, which is blessed with a picturesque waterfront and green areas, one notices bike lanes without any cyclists on them. At the railway station, where you’d expect to see bikes lined up, you can’t find one.
At first I thought that was a bit weird. But then I ventured out on my bike, and quickly found out why it is that no one uses their bikes. The way the roads have been designed – for cars only – makes it a complete hazard to cycle. The bike lanes are for the most part on the road with the cars, rather than between the footpath and the parked cars. Therefore you are really putting your life in the hands of other driver’s behaviour.
It is outright dangerous for two reasons. The city planners who constructed the roads obviously never had any high thoughts about the value of cycling. Bike paths exist, but only at random. They come and go where ever it was possible for the municipality to make a white stripe on the road without too much inconvenience for them, or for the car drivers. After a few hundred meters the bike path, however, will all of sudden disappear, as if bicyclists would suddenly be able to evaporate as well, or fly? Or… which is the reality: get hit by a car because of being forced out into the car lane.
Cars have the right of way in Australia. And as long as drivers and cyclists are competing for same space, there is hostility in the air – both ways.
Only that when accidents happen, it is usually the cyclist who loses out. A local newspaper confirmed this by reporting an increased accident rate and a fatality in 2012 — a year which saw a 30 percent increase in cyclist admissions to Geelong Hospital, according to Bikesafe, an organisation which is currently working with Geelong Council and VicRoads to create what they call a “principle bicycle network”.
According to Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census of Population and Housing 2011, one percent of Geelong’s citizens use their bicycles to get to and from work. So even though cycling means saving money, saving the atmosphere from CO2-emissions, and improving your personal health, Australians continue to shun bikes in favour of SUV’s (Sport Utility Vehicles) and other motor vehicles as their mode of transport. Bikes are for sport in the weekend. Cars are for the dailyday activities.
Great cities have great streets
This is not just a Geelong phenomena. It is the same all over Australia, with the exception of Melbourne which has put an effort into making a difference, with the City of Melbourne saying it is “committed to establishing a superior cycling network and enabling cyclists to travel more safely through the city.” From 2001 to 2006, according to the census, the number of riders in Melbourne rose with 43 percent, and it is still on the rise. As part of its 2012-2013 budget, the City of Melbourne committed 5.6 million AUS dollars to install 15 kilometres of new and upgraded bicycle lanes, with a focus on improving the cycling environment.
“Forward-thinking cities are turning back to the humble bicycle as a way to enhance mobility, alleviate automotive congestion, reduce air pollution, boost health, support local businesses, and attract more young people. (…) Today more than 500 cities in 49 countries host advanced bike-sharing programs, with a combined fleet of over 500,000 bicycles.”
» Earth Policy Institute – 25 April 2013:
Bike-Sharing Programs Hit the Streets in Over 500 Cities Worldwide
Welcome to the era of the Bike Share. By Janet Larsen
“Great cities have great streets. Our vision is for a more connected, sustainable and liveable city,” wrote the city council in one of the its brochures. You can reach much more about the city’s bicycle policy and initiatives on melbourne.vic.gov.au/cycling
“Research shows we’ve reached ‘peak car’: car ownership and usership are both beginning to decline. And cities are becoming far better places because they are less car-dependent. The six most walkable cities in the US are 38 per cent wealthier, they have a higher GDP than the rest.”
~ Peter Newman, professor of sustainability at Curtin University
A great article and a full podcast-episode of ABC’s ‘Earshot’ about car-free life around the world, about how cities are better with fewer cars:
» ABC RN – 20 July 2015:
Learning to live without cars
Reducing carbon emissions
So why am I mentioning all this in a blog about climate change? Because it really doesn’t make any sense to have created a society where only one percent of its citizens use their bikes to get to school or work. By the end of the day, this is the result of decisions which were made in the city’s council. It has everything to do with how the roads are designed.
In a time where the world is looking for ways to reduce carbon emissions, this would be a logical place to take concrete and fast action, since it is not only a question of cutting emissions, but also of reducing noise and unhealthy pollution while enabling our children to ride their bikes to school on their own without having to fear for their lives. Construct bike paths, save on sick-leave expenses, reduce carbon emissions. Cycling is a tripple win-win: to your health and private economy, to the community, and to the climate. If you have doubts about this, you only have to go to or look towards cities such as Melbourne or Copenhagen.
If you would like to see some more common sense rolled out in the shape of bike paths in your city, don’t just jump up on a bicycle. You need to approach organisations and politicians, and tell them about the health benefit calculations from Copenhagen. You could also reveal to them that the newest scientific knowledge about happiness implies changing the city’s infrastructure. Policy expert Geoff Mulgan, founder of Action for Happiness, did that in a TEDx presentation when he argued: “How does a city promote happiness? It encourages people to walk, to bike, to exercise, to connect with other people.”
Getting on a bike doesn’t just cut carbon emissions—it boosts the economy
A new study finds that cycling is creating more jobs in Europe than automakers are in the U.S.
Bicycle Friendly Cities – The Copenhagen Index 2013
Amsterdam and Copenhagen are the top cities for cyclers, according to the latest Copenhagenize Index of Bicycle Friendly Cities. Some other high-ranking urban areas — including Seville, Bordeaux, and Antwerp — haven’t necessarily been on the international radar for their cycling efforts much up until now. This is the second Copenhagenize Index of top biking cities.
» See the index: www.copenhagenize.eu/index/index.html
Value of Danish cycling joy: measured in millions
Director of the Danish Cyclists’ Federation, Klaus Bondam, shared his insight with SBS’s Danish-speaking listeners concerning the social significance and economic benefits of cycling. Denmark has gained a worldwide reputation as a nation of cyclists, and not only does cycling have a positive effect on the health, it also saves the capital region one million sick days a year, the region has figured out.
The Danish Program on SBS Radio asked Klaus Bondam to comment on architect Jan Gehl’s statement to the ABC about that Australia should get rid of the bicycle helmets. “We have figured out that if we introduce compulsory bicycle helmets, we can in one night, halve the ridership on bicycles,” said Jan Gehl.
» Interview on SBS Radio in Danish language: www.sbs.com.au
→ ABC’s interview with Jan Gehl: www.abc.net.au
→ Read the English version of the national strategy for cycling, which the Danish Ministry of Transport launched in July 2014: www.trm.dk
→ These are the regional bicycle accounts which Klaus Bondam mentions: www.regionh.dk
→ The Cycling Embassy of Denmark: www.cycling-embassy.dk
Portland, USA: a cyclist’s utopia
Four reasons why Portland became a cyclist’s utopia
It wasn’t inevitable. Here are some of the things city leaders and residents did over the years to turn their town into a haven for bike riders.
A five-year-old boy was riding his bike less than a metre in front of his mother, older brother and grandparents when he was hit by a truck and killed north of Brisbane on Sunday morning.
The family, out for a morning ride, was crossing Narangba Road at a set of traffic lights near the intersection with Anzac Avenue at Kallangur when a tip truck suddenly rounded the corner.
‘He had seen the mum, but he hadn’t looked down and seen the boys,’ a witness said.
The boy’s little red bike was left at the scene with a mangled front tyre.
Another family was nearly hit at the intersection just days ago.
» Sydney Morning Herald – 22 September 2013:
Young boy on bike killed by truck
By Marissa Calligeros
App for reporting ‘bike blackspots’
Cyclists throughout Australia can use this app to report bike blackspots and provide feedback about cycling infrastructure and safety issues.
» Download the app: The Bike Blackspot app — “a revolution for safer cycleways”
Bike Blackspots Victoria
» Facebook page: facebook.com/BikeBlackspotsVictoria
» People for Bikes – 12 March 2013:
Good news: Studies show bike commuting is one of the best ways to stay healthy
“Biking for transportation appears more helpful in losing weight and promoting health than working out at the gym.”
By Jay Walljasper. Re-published in The Grist
“As countries are becoming ever more car orientated, their citizens are feeling the effects at their waist-lines, wallets and watches. The sedentary lifestyle that commonly comes with a heavy reliance on powered vehicles is costing individuals, companies and countries huge amounts of time and money. Everything for wasted hours in traffic jams to ever increasing medical expenses due obesity rates can be positively influenced by more people riding their bikes!”
» Urban Growth – 21 April 2013:
How Bikes Can Save Us – Infographic
By adding 30 minutes of cycling to your day, one can save up to US$ 544 annually in medical expenses.
» The Grist – 23 April 2013:
Europeans are buying two bikes for every car
Europeans are not buying as many cars as they once did. They are buying bikes, though. A lot of bikes. In 2011, they bought 20 million bikes — nearly twice as many bikes as they bought cars. By Sarah Laskow
» Politiken – 20 April 2013:
Supercykelstier kan spare København 34.000 sygedage
» Geelong Advertiser – 22 February 2013:
Cyclist killed at Corio
“50 percent of the citizens of the Danish capital Copenhagen, close to 500,000 persons, use their bicycle to get to work or school every day. Copenhagen has 412 kilometres of bicycle lanes, and in total the citizens of Copenhagen cycle 1,21 million kilometres every day.”
This blog highlights who they are, why they do it and how it was made possible: copenhagenize.com
“A study by the European Cyclists Federation that compares the CO2 produced by cycling with other modes of transport concludes that Europe could reduce its overall emissions by one quarter if its population cycled as regularly as the Danes.
According to the report cycling is responsible for CO2 emissions of 21 gr per km. The calculations included emissions associated with production, maintenance and fuel. The figures were based on a heavy 19 kilo European-style town bike built using 14.6 kg of aluminium, 3.7 kg of steel and 1.6 kg of rubber and the cost of producing the extra calories consumed by a cyclist rather than a motorist.
The report calculated that an average car produced 271 gr and a bus 101 gr.
In Denmark the average person cycles almost 965 kilometres each year — far more than the EU average of almost 195 kilometres per person per year and a total of 75 kilometres in Britain.”
» ETA – 13 December 2011:
CO2 emissions from cycling revealed
“On the day that Worldwatch Institute launched State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? 69,578 cyclists crossed the Dronning Louise Bridge into the centre of Copenhagen providing a very simple answer to that very weighty environmental question. Of course sustainability is possible, if we make sustainable choices. In the Danish capital, hundreds of thousands of people have chosen the bicycle as their main mode of transport, turning Nørrebrogade, a main thoroughfare into the city, into Europe’s busiest road in terms of bicycle traffic.”