How to Save Your City Billions in Healthcare Costs

Most people who care about the environment think more pedestrians and cyclists in urban and suburban areas is a great thing. It’s seems pretty logical that more exercise, less pollution, and fewer auto accidents would lead to more citizens living longer, healthier, and therefore happier lives. Well apparently some research was done on this issue and they found some not-so-surprising affirmative results:

Last week, the journal Environmental Health Perspectives published findings from a study by scientists at the University of Wisconsin on the economic and health benefits of switching from a car to a bike for trips shorter than five miles long in 11 metropolitan areas around the upper Midwest. Combining data on air pollution, medical costs, mortality rates, car accidents, and physical fitness, the researchers found that if inhabitants of the sample region switched to bikes for half of their short trips, they’d create a net societal health benefit of $3.5 billion per year from the increase in air quality and $3.8 billion in savings from smaller health care costs associated with better fitness and fewer mortalities from a decreased rate of car accidents.

“We were conservative,” Jonathan Patz, a professor of population health studies and a co-author of the study, told NPR. The study assumed that Midwesterners would bike only when the weather was the best—about four months worth of days per year—which is most likely false, seeing as frosty Minneapolis was named the country’s best city for biking in 2010. And if the study were conducted somewhere with warmer weather, the results might be even more dramatic.

Sounds like it’s time to install a rack on that bike, huh?

You can read the whole article HERE.

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5 Responses to How to Save Your City Billions in Healthcare Costs

  1. klugo1215 says:

    It’s so obvious yet we do so little. I studied abroad in Denmark last semester and they are HUGE on biking. A third of the commuters in Copenhagen use bikes as their daily commute, well over 90% of the city population owns at least one bike, and many people seem confused if you ask them why they don’t have a car. The city published a report in 2010 detailing a net social gain of $0.34/mile from cycling and net social loss is $0.19/mile for private vehicles (I roughly converted this). It is a tragedy that our country and its deeply ingrained car culture is not taking this more seriously!

    • Cody D. says:

      It so obvious, it’s often overlooked, I think. Unfortunately, it might take continually rising fuel prices and insurance costs to drive people toward alternative modes of transportation. As urban dwellers, it’s our job to push these kind of policies forward as we’re the ones who have the most to gain.

  2. Mazhar says:

    That is great idea. nice post

    • Cody D. says:

      Although I’ll admit I love driving through a winding country road with the windows down or even enjoying a warm city night in the car, less cars really does equal healthier, happier citizens.

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