Increasing participation in cycling brings many benefits.
Reasons for cycling...
- because it's fun!
- to enjoy the exhilaration of riding fast (but not too fast)...
- it's quick to get around town - travelling a few kilometres is often faster on a bike than in a car.
- go on adventures to places you can't get to by car
- kids love getting out and experiencing the feel of independence
- you don't have to look for a carpark when you just want a coffee, awesome!
The other more boring but positive benefits include:
Health benefits are achieved by the individual who cycles, improving their personal health and reducing their chance of obesity. In Victoria, obesity is the second highest ranked cause of premature death and disability, contributing 8% to the overall burden of disease. Lack of physical activity is second only to tobacco as the most important health risk in Australia today.
30 minutes of moderate activity five times a week can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, some cancers and heart problems including strokes. Simply cycling to/from work or school each weekday would enable many people to achieve this health goal.
Health benefits are also achieved by the community that promotes cycling as more active residents place less burden on the health system. This burden far outweighs the impact of cycle related accidents
Environmental benefits of cycling are achieved through reduced motor vehicle use leading to reduced congestion and vehicle emissions, improved local air quality and reduced carbon dioxide (a significant greenhouse gas associated with global warming) in the atmosphere.
In Melbourne over 50% of car trips are less than 5 kilometres. These trips cause significant pollution as engines do not properly warm up and fuel is not efficiently burnt. Many of these short trips could be made by bicycle and this simple change in routine would provide considerable air quality benefits.
Motor vehicles also create rubbish both during their life cycle and afterwards. Cities that attract higher levels of cycling are cleaner, have less pollution, are more liveable and attract more residents than cities that are built around the motor vehicle.
- are achieved through the savings individuals make by cycling instead of driving. Cycling costs typically equate to 1 per cent of the cost of driving a motor vehicle when purchase price, maintenance, depreciation and fuel costs are considered.
- can also be measured through increased land values as a result of connecting people and activity centres, less health care costs as a result of healthier citizens and improved productivity at workplaces due to less sick days being taken.
Furthermore, economic benefits can be achieved through cycle tourism and extra trade for local shops, accommodation and restaurants/cafes/bars. A recent study by La Trobe University found that visitors to the Murray to Mountain Rail Trail in North East Victoria spent on average $258 dollars per day
Providing quality cycle networks creates more accessible neighbourhoods. In areas with low car ownership bicycles provide cheap alternative access to employment, healthcare and services.
Providing quality bicycle lanes and paths also increases social cohesion and benefits the wellbeing of the whole community. Cycle paths improve neighbourhood amenity and having more people cycling increases the safety of a neighbourhood by increasing passive surveillance. Safe communities are happier and healthier.
Children choosing active transport (cycling or walking to school), not only report an increase in physical activity, they also improve their road safety skills and get to know more people in their neighbourhood
Each of the above factors positively reinforce one another, that is: a socially connected community is happier and generally healthier.
The true benefit achieved by a community that encourages cycling and provides for cyclists is not any of the above in isolation but instead a combination of them all.