A new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that across the study region of 31 million people and 37,000 square miles, mortality would decline by 1,110 deaths per year and reduced health care costs could exceed $3.8 billion if 50% of “short trips” were taken by bicycle instead of automobile. From the abstract:
RESULTS: We estimate that annual average urban PM2.5 would decline by 0.1 µg/m3 and that summer O3 would increase slightly in cities but decline regionally, resulting in net health benefits of $3.5 billion/year (95% CI: $0.4–$9.8 billion), with 25% of PM2.5 and most O3 benefits to populations outside metropolitan areas. Across the study region of approximately 31.3 million people and 37,000 total square miles, mortality would decline by approximately 1,100 deaths/year (95% CI: 856 – 1,346) due to improved air quality and increased exercise. Making 50% of short trips by bicycle would yield savings of approximately $3.8 billion/year from avoided mortality and reduced health care costs (95% CI: $2.7 – $5.0 billion). We estimate that the combined benefits of improved air quality and physical fitness would exceed $7 billion/year.
CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that significant health and economic benefits are possible if bicycling replaces short car trips. Less auto dependence in urban areas would also improve health in downwind rural settings.