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Study: Portland Bikeway Investments Projected to Save City $800 Million by 2040


I’ve discussed the challenges of using single-site studies as universal truths before (and I’ve seen a few being abused thusly), but there’s a really interesting study out of Portland, Oregon that suggests bikeway investment is a money-saver.

Thomas Gotschi, from the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, published “Costs and Benefits of Bicycling Investments in Portland, Oregon” in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health. Based on his affiliation, he wouldn’t seem to have any natural bias.

The study sought to monetize the ROI for money spent on bikeways in the past – and to estimate potential returns on future spending.

His findings? We can quote the abstract:

By 2040, investments in the range of $138 to $605 million will result in health care cost savings $388 to $594 million, fuel savings of $143 to $218 million, and savings in value of statistical lives of $7 to $12 billion. The benefit-cost ratios for health care and fuel savings are between 3.8 and 1.2 to 1, and an order of magnitude larger when value of statistical lives is used.

(All that about statistical lives? It’s an actuarial thing.)

The study provides an interesting perspective on how bikeway investment can influence health costs and disease prevention. The methods used could be applied to other cities.

We’re still waiting on the DOT report on the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program and its impacts – a report that was due September 30, 2010, but is still pending. It’s also unknown what methodology will be used in that report — or how the new, Republican-controlled House Transportation Committee, now without program champion James Oberstar — will respond.

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Author: julie

Julie Kosbab is an online marketing consultant and active transportation advocate living in Anoka County, Minnesota. She was one of Minnesota's only League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructors when certified in 2005. She is a past member of the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association. She has 2 children and 4 bicycles. Find her on Twitter as @betweenstations.

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