Background:

Promoting bicycling has great potential to increase overall physical activity; however, significant uncertainty exists with regard to the amount and effectiveness of investment needed for infrastructure. The objective of this study is to assess how costs of Portland’s past and planned investments in bicycling relate to health and other benefits.

Methods:

Costs of investment plans are compared with 2 types of monetized health benefits, health care cost savings and value of statistical life savings. Levels of bicycling are estimated using past trends, future mode share goals, and a traffic demand model.

Results:

By 2040, investments in the range of $138 to $605 million will result in health care cost savings of $388 to $594 million, fuel savings of $143 to $218 million, and savings in value of statistical lives of $7 to $12 billion. The benefit-cost ratios for health care and fuel savings are between 3.8 and 1.2 to 1, and an order of magnitude larger when value of statistical lives is used.

Conclusions:

This first of its kind cost-benefit analysis of investments in bicycling in a US city shows that such efforts are cost-effective, even when only a limited selection of benefits is considered.

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Gotschi is with the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Zurich, Switzerland.

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