Cycle highways pay for themselves, say researchers


Researchers have shown that the health, economic and environmental benefits of long-distance cycle superhighways easily outweigh the cost of building them

Further investment called for

Researchers from the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (Vito) have proven the cost-effectiveness of bicycle highways – cycle paths without junctions that allow cyclists to cover long distances quickly. According to Vito, the paths lead to reduced economic and health-care costs that easily compensate for the cost of building them.

The researchers made a cost/benefit analysis for the Antwerp-Mechelen (pictured) and Leuven-Brussels bike highways. The cost of construction of a path is between €300,000 and €800,000 a kilometre. They are used by between 600 and 4,400 cyclists a day for 20 years without much maintenance costs involved.

Cycling lowers the risk of conditions like diabetes, depression and dementia, which can be converted into saved health-care costs, said Vito. The highways also reduce air and noise pollution, congestion and traffic accidents, leading to still lower health-care costs and lower economic as well.

In the least favourable case, in which only 600 cyclists a day use the highway, the savings amount to twice the construction costs over the 20-year period. In the most favourable case, with 4,400 cyclists a day, the savings are 10 to 14 times higher than the construction costs.

Even if it’s assumed that the cyclists didn’t drive a car previously and thus didn’t cause CO2 emissions or congestion, the savings outweigh the construction costs, Vito said. In their report, published in the Journal of Transport & Health, the researchers advise further investment in bicycle highways.

Photo: Sven Van Haezendonck/Gazet Van Antwerpen

Flemish cycling

Flemish cyclists have played a dominant role in the history of European bicycle racing. With the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), the region also has a classic cycle race.
Flandriens - The legendary pioneers of the Flemish cycling tradition are called “Flandriens”. They include Roger De Vlaeminck, Eddy Planckaert, Johan Museeuw and Walter Godefroot.
Eddy Merckx - Having won 525 races in his career, Brusselaar Eddy Merckx, nicknamed “the Cannibal”, is considered one of the greatest cyclists of all time.
Trophy - The annual Flandrien Trophy honours the best Belgian cyclist of the past season. Professional cyclists choose and vote for the nominees.

number of times Merckx won the Tour de France

1 913

first Tour of Flanders

1 969

Merckx becomes first Belgian to win the Tour de France in 30 years