The  lines

22September

Pedalling towards a car-free world

Today is World Carfree Day - a day that calls out people to try alternative modes of transport for at least one day of the year, be it public transport, cycling, walking or even carpooling. We know that cycling is good for your health and saves money, but what is the economic impact?

According to a Flash Eurobarometer published in March 2011, bicycling is the primary means of transport for more than 35 million Europeans or 7.4% of the total population. The percentage is highest in the Netherlands (31%, featured in the video above) and lowest in Cyprus (0.3%). How does this lot fare economically?

First, bicycle production forms an entire industry. In 2010, more than 12 million bicycles were produced in the European Union, having a net industry worth of 1.2 billion €. The industry employs roughly 20 200 people. From a broader industry view (retailers, repair shops, etc), if 23 000 people are employed in this sector in the UK, it could be reasonable to assume that more than 100 000 people are employed by the wider bicycle economy in the EU27 countries. Not that many people employed, but that's because the cycle industry is lean just as cycling itself, it doesn't require massive amounts of human or material resources.

To employ an even wider scope and include cycle tourism, it has been calculated that cycle tourism in the EU generates 54 billion € annually, and if we take into account indirect economic impact through health and environmental benefits, an Austrian study concludes that every kilometer cycled generates a health benefit of about 0.9€. Thus, in Europe, approximately 94 billion euros are saved thanks to cycling. That's a sum of money saved by just 35 million people - 2700 euros per person per year!

"Yes, well, but cycling infrastructure is also costly!" - of course it costs, but nothing near the cost of urban freeways, fore example. In fact, 1 km of  freeway equals about 150 km of bicycle paths. That's some food for thought!


References:

-The Gallup Organisation, Flash Eurobarometer 312 – Future of transport: Analytical report (2011)
-COLIPED, European Bicycle Market and Industry Profile (2011)
-LSE, The British Cycling Economy: ‘Gross Cycling Product’ Report (2011) 
-Institute of Transport and Tourism, University of Central Lancashire and Centre for Sustainable Transport and Tourism, Breda University, The  European Cycle Route Network, EuroVelo: Challenges and Opportunities for Sustainable Tourism Requested by the European Parliament’s Committee  on Transport and tourism (2009) 
-Trunk G., Gesamtwirtschaftlicher Vergleich von Pkw- und Radverkehr: Ein Beitrag zur Nachhaltigkeitsdiskussion. Masterarbeit am Institut für  Verkehrswesen der Universität für Bodenkultur, Wien (2011) 
-Institut Fédératif de Recherche sur les Économies et les Sociétés Industrielles, Vélo urbain: Dosier Special Couts, Vélocité no. 88(2006) 

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