German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened Europe’s biggest bike trade fair Eurobike last Wednesday, signaling a huge step forward for the cycling advocacy movement. At the same time ECF released its analysis of the “Economic benefits of cycling in the EU-27” making it clear that such high level interest in cycling is set to continue. Senior politicians are beginning to realize that daily cycling not only changes the face of our cities for the better, it also makes much sense in economic terms.
Calculating all internal and external benefits of cycling together and adding the turnover of related industries, ECF estimates the number to be well above € 200 bn annually, or more than € 400 for every person that lives in the EU. By far the biggest single chunk is on the health side, with over € 110 bn annually. ECF calculated this figure by using the Health Economic Assessment Tool (HEAT) for Cycling, developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Despite the excellent work done by the WHO, there is still a long way to go within the health sector in promoting active mobility. ECF therefore has the following 3 key messages to the political world in general and to the health sector in particular:
- Cycling policy needs continuous political leadership and coordination from the very top down. Cycling has links to many different policy departments[i]. This fragmentation needs to be overcome. ECF therefore encourages government at all levels[ii] to develop and implement cross-departmental cycling action plans
- As the main socioeconomic benefit of cycling is on the health side, the ECF calls in particular upon the health sector to live up to its responsibility. Health departments should actively reach out to other departments for fully inclusive cycling policies. This also relates to the concept of ‘health in all policies’. Health departments and health insurance programmes are also invited to financially support cycling projects, e.g. cycling infrastructure investments and promotion campaigns. Another tool is to offer regular active commuters health insurance discounts
- The “polluter pays” principle is finding more and more political support. The European Commission stated in its White Paper on Transport (2011[iii]) the ambition to “Proceed to the full and mandatory internalization of external costs (including noise, local pollution and congestion)”. ECF welcomes the progress being made here but thinks that the externalhealth benefits of cycling should be included in this policy framework.
ECF would like to point out that these calculations can be replicated to a large extent at every local, regional and national level and we encourage cycling advocates to do so when speaking to their politicians. The WHO currently organizes a number of training webinars in English and German language on how to use the HEAT tool.