Posting in Cities
According to a new report on the public benefits of commuter biking, the practice can generate massive savings in health care.
The U.S. spends around $2 trillion a year on health care, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Wouldn't it be nice to find a way to cut back on those costs, while simultaneously improving public health and lowering carbon emissions?
Copenhagen recently published its 2012 Bicycle Account, which enumerates the considerable public benefits of commuter biking. One-third of the city's population bikes to work, and this has benefited everything from transportation costs to security, tourism, traffic infrastructure, and public health.
Andy Clarke, president of the league of American Bicyclists (as quoted in The Grist):
“When all these factors are added together the net social gain is DKK [Danish Crowns] 1.22 per cycled kilometer. For purposes of comparison there is a net social loss of DKK 0.69 per kilometer driven by car.” 1.22 Danish crowns is about 25 cents and a kilometer is 6/10 of a mile, so we are talking about a net economic gain to society of 42 cents for every bicycle mile traveled. That’s a good number to have in your back pocket.
Business Insider did some simple arithmetic and found that if the same proportion of Americans commuted to work by bicycle as our counterparts in Copenhagen (35 percent), we'd have 109 million cyclists. At a rate of social gain of 0.42 cents per mile, even if our cyclists biked only a mile per day, we'd be adding $46 million to the economy each day, and $17 billion per year. This doesn't even account for the benefit of offsetting the social loss caused by driving, as many of these bikers would otherwise have driven to work.
Business Insider argues that most of this social gain would ultimately find its way back to the health industry, citing the Copenhagen report:
The most important socio-economic impact of cycling lies in the area of health care. When we cycle we save ourselves and society as a whole significant health care costs, including saved treatment expenses and increased tax revenues as result of fewer illnesses.
That's a strong argument for American cities to improve their biking infrastructure. The public gains may prove to be more than worth the investment.
via [Business Insider]
Mar 29, 2012
Come down to Austin and bike to work over the hills and in 105 heat, and hope your office dess code is swim suits and sweat.
The benefits of biking go way beyond immediate health care costs including cleaner air, national fuel/deficit reductions, reduced city spend on roads, enjoy nicer public places without cars.. Unfortunately public planning is focused on the car/sprawl and it's often too dangerous and difficult in modern cities to bike. I love visiting bike friendly cities like Munich, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Copenhagen.
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There's little doubt that for most people, riding a bike on a regular basis would certainly be healthier. But I seriously doubt that it would have any significant overall benefit on health costs. It would merely shift them to other points in health care. First of all, as mentioned above, costs related to accidents and disability would climb significantly. It's not clear how that cost is built in. Second, most of the heath costs for most people are consumed at later stages of life. So we might be preventing a certain number of cases of diabetes and congested heart failure. But sooner or later, even healthy people get old and sick from something. It will just happen later, long after their busy bankrupting Social Security...
Some of my bicyclist friends have had some horrible accidents. One broke his neck (wearing a helmet of course). The other needed hand surgery from a fall. Is that factored in?
What would it cost them to put in a few bike stations in Austin?! Heck the whole town is practically sponsored by Lance Armstrong!
Studies have shown that when more people cycle, accidents actually do DOWN. Communities that double the number of cyclists see the number of accidents go down by about a third, as drivers become more used to seeing & reacting to cyclists. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080903112034.htm
Your argument that accidents caused by this increase in biking will cost the health care system more than it's worth in health benefits is a little disingenuous. What is killing more US citizens than anything else?: heart disease. Getting a better bike friendly road system, training new bikers how to correctly interact with vehicles and pedestrians, as well as educating drivers on best practices will dramatically decrease injury rates. Even tearing all poorly planned roads and replacing them with more bike friendly ones would cost less than what heart disease costs our society!
I was just in a pretty bad bike crash in NYC and needed hand and jaw surgery. Even still, I don't think your argument holds water! The roads need to be repaired so that they are useable for all: cars, bikes, and pedestrians.Exercise and decreased emissions are great! And as an added benefit cyclists like myself serve as road condition surveyors too! hahah
I didn't say that the rise accidents would exclusively equate future health savings. What I said was that future health savings wouldn't happen like the proponents propose, because people who won't be getting ill from diabetes or heart disease will be living longer to eventually get sick from something else, mainly "old age". Sooner or later, we're all going to die of something, and it won't be cheap - unless we just put people down.