Cars cost the economy dear


That’s the finding of recent research in Copenhagen by Lund University. It discovered that it is six times more expensive for society and for people individually if they travel by car than by bicycle.  The study looked at a range of cost-benefit factors in drawing their conclusions:

  • air pollution
  • climate change
  • congestion
  • health
  • noise
  • road wear
  • travel route

These are the same factors that the local Copenhagen municipality uses to assess whether to build infrastructure or not.

The study found that the cost to society and individuals is 0.50 Euros per kilometre driven compared to 0.08 Euros per kilometre cycled.  If you just look at the cost/benefits to society, then a car costs society 0.15 Euros for every kilometre it is driven, whereas a bicycle earns society 0.16 Euros for every kilometre it is ridden.

This doesn’t mean that everyone should ride a bicycle for every journey and we all give up the car, but certainly for urban areas it demonstrates why there needs to be a step change in investment in cycle infrastructure in this country.  Indeed, it is scandalous that so little is invested in cycling in West Sussex when south of the South Downs, it is coastal plain and virtually flat.  East Sussex fares little better, while Brighton & Hove is still to complete a comprehensive cycle network despite having spent years building cycling infrastructure.

Given the pressures on the public purse and with local government facing further cutbacks it is essential that Local Enterprise Partnerships and local authorities prioritise spending on sustainable transport and not yet more road building. As this study shows, what’s good for the planet is also good for the economy.