Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Increased use of bikes for commuting offers economic, health benefits

Date:
November 6, 2011
Source:
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary:
Cutting out short auto trips and replacing them with mass transit and active transport would yield major health benefits, according to a new study. The biggest health benefit was due to replacing half of the short trips with bicycle trips during the warmest six months of the year, saving about $3.8 billion per year from avoided mortality and reduced health care costs for conditions like obesity and heart disease.

Cutting out short auto trips and replacing them with mass transit and active transport would yield major health benefits, according to a study just published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Related Articles


The biggest health benefit was due to replacing half of the short trips with bicycle trips during the warmest six months of the year, saving about $3.8 billion per year from avoided mortality and reduced health care costs for conditions like obesity and heart disease.

The report calculated that these measures would save an estimated $7 billion, including 1,100 lives each year from improved air quality and increased physical fitness.

Moving five-mile round trips from cars to bikes is a win-win situation that is often ignored in discussions of transportation alternatives, says Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "We talk about the cost of changing energy systems, the cost of alternative fuels, but we seldom talk about this kind of benefit," he says.

The study of the largest 11 metropolitan statistical areas in the upper Midwest began by identifying the air pollution reductions that would result from eliminating the short auto trips.

A small average reduction in very fine particles, which lodge deep in the lung and have repeatedly been tied to asthma, which affects 8.2 percent of U.S. citizens, and deaths due to cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, was a major source of health benefits, says co-author Scott Spak, who worked on the study at UW-Madison and is now at the University of Iowa.

"The reductions tend to be much larger during high pollution episodes, and even small changes reduce a chronic exposure that affects the 31.3 million people living throughout the region -- not just in these metropolitan areas, but even hundreds of miles downwind," Spak says.

The study projected that 433 lives would be saved due to the reduction in fine particles.

The second step was to look at the health benefits of using a bicycle on those short trips during the six months with optimum weather, when cycling is quite feasible in the region.

"Obesity has become a national epidemic, and not getting exercise has lot to do with that," says first author Maggie Grabow, a Ph.D. candidate at UW-Madison's Nelson Institute, who presented the study on Nov. 2 to the American Public Health Association in Washington, D.C.

"The majority of Americans do not get the recommended minimum level of exercise," says Grabow. "In a busy daily schedule, if that exercise can automatically occur while commuting to work, we anticipate a major benefit in stemming the obesity epidemic, and consequently a significant reduction in type II diabetes, which is a deadly epidemic in its own right."

Overall, the study may underestimate the benefits of eliminating short auto trips, says Patz, an environmental health specialist in the Department of Population Health Sciences, because it did not measure the financial savings due to reduced auto usage. Furthermore, the study did not try to account for the health benefits of the foregone auto trips, which would be performed on foot or via mass transit, both of which provide an additional amount of exercise.

Patz acknowledges that it's unrealistic to expect to eliminate all short auto trips, but notes that biking as transportation is gaining popularity in the United States, and that in some cities in Northern Europe, approximately 50 percent of short trips are done by bike. "If they have achieved this, why should we not think we can achieve it too?" he asks.

Chicago and New York, among other cities, have devoted significant resources to bike infrastructure in recent years, Patz notes.

The new study, he says, should provide another motivation for making cities more bike friendly, with better parking, bike racks on buses and trains, and more bike lanes and especially separate bike paths.

"Part of this is a call for making our biking infrastructure safer. If there are so many health benefits out there, we ought to try to redesign our cities to achieve them without putting new riders at risk," Patz says.

By lessening the use of fossil fuels, a reduction in auto usage also benefits the climate, Patz adds. "Transportation accounts for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions, so if we can swap bikes for cars, we gain in fitness, local air quality, a reduction in greenhouse gases, and the personal economic benefits of biking rather than driving. It's a four-way win," he adds.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison. The original article was written by David Tenenbaum. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Increased use of bikes for commuting offers economic, health benefits." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111102082804.htm>.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2011, November 6). Increased use of bikes for commuting offers economic, health benefits. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111102082804.htm
University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Increased use of bikes for commuting offers economic, health benefits." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111102082804.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Scientists in Amsterdam say couples transfer tens of millions of microbes when they kiss, encouraging healthy exposure to bacteria. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Cambridge scientists have unravelled the genetic code of a rare tapeworm that lived inside a patient's brain for at least four year. Researchers hope it will present new opportunities to diagnose and treat this invasive parasite. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) A touch-free phone developed in Israel enables the mobility-impaired to operate smart phones with just a movement of the head. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins