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Health Benefits of Riding a Bicycle

Walking Riding & Access to Public Transport Draft Report

I recently had a go at putting together a submission on the Australian federal government’s, Walking, riding and access to public transport draft report. The report itself however has some interesting chapters with sections on topics such as who regularly rides a bicycle in Australia. I thought these sections where worth a closer look. This is the fourth in a series of posts taking a closer look at the report. The first post looked at how Australians commute to work and study, the second post looked at the question, who regularly rides a bicycle in Australia, the third post looked at the economic benefits of riding a bicycle. This post drills down into the first of four areas identified as receiving significant benefits from cycling: Our health, the community’s health.

Section 3.2 of the *Walking, riding and access to public transport* draft report takes a look at the benefits of walking and cycling to our health, to the community’s health. I will focus on benefits that come from the riding a bicycle in this post.  As discussed the economic benefit of 1,000 bicycle riders per day is discounted benefits of around $15 million over a 30-year appraisal period ($1.43 per kilometre ridden). A portion of this economic benefits flows to individual health and community health.

Health benefits of cycling

Figure 3.4 Linking transport systems and urban infrastructure with potential health impacts

Linking transport systems and urban infrastructure with potential health impacts

So what can we learn from this breakdown? Well first of all there are significant health benefits to come from good-quality cycling infrastructure. After allowing for the associated injury costs nearly half of the $1.43 of economic benefit that comes from cycling, health gains 75 cents per kilometre. Surly that in itself should be enough to see a significant increase in expenditure on cycling infrastructure; well it would if valued human life over motor vehicles.

The health benefits arise in terms of addressing somewhat our obesity crisis. The draft report notes that

incorporating physical activity into travel has been identified as a highly effective means to increase daily physical activity. Active travel contributes to the overall physical activity participation rates of the Australian population and could help contribute further to Australia’s national preventative health agenda.

But the health benefits don’t end there. There are also health benefits in terms of improving community cohesion and mental health; cycling produces minimal air pollution which in turns has the potential to benefit with reduced respiratory disease and asthma; and finally more people cycling for transport means reduced noise pollution which in-turn is linked to stress and sleep disturbance. So cycling can also have a positive impact on our stress levels and our sleep patterns.

This begs the question what are the economic benefits, health wise to come from the motor vehicle?  I would suggest that it is well and truly time to put our health ahead of the motor vehicle and to invest in cycling infrastructure.

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