Bike lanes profitable, says Dutch report

By Richard Peace in Yorkshire, UK | Thursday, September 15, 2011 2.53pm

Dutch mobility consultants Goudappel Coffeng consultants recently reported that "the proceeds that can be attributed to bicycle highways considerably outweigh the costs."

In other words, cycle lanes, built properly as they tend to be in the Netherlands, more than pay for the cost of their construction through the benefits they bring.

The report’s headline conclusion is striking. Over the next couple of years approximately €100m will be invested in bicycle ‘highways’ in the Netherlands. That will lead to future annual profits of at least €144m in travel time gained, better health and environmental benefits – rising to €358m if electric bikes continue their rise in popularity within the country.

Goudappel Coffeng used a predictive traffic model based on two different scenarios: one involving the construction of 675km of bicycle highways and another one with the additional assumption that by 2020 half of all cyclists will be riding an electric bicycle (electric bikes are a huge growth area in the Netherlands, currently accounting for around 15% of the market).

The report’s predictions sees car journeys falling by 0.7% in the first scenario and, if electric bikes are used for half of the projected cycle trips, by 1.6%. Projected bike journeys increase by 1.3 and 3.3% respectively. The report does note that some of the increase in bike trips would also be at the expense of public transport trips.  

The extra cycle highways would mean 3.8m hours less traffic congestion (or 9.4m hours less in the 50% electric bike scenario).

The assumed profits are broken down thus:

  • € 40m a year saved in traffic congestion expenses (bicycle highways only) growing to €100m with bicycle highways in combination with an increased use of electric bicycles.
  • Health effects will contribute another €250m to the ‘electric scenario’ according to the calculation
  • A further  €8m will be saved thanks to CO2 reduction.

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Overall this leads to a profit of €358m. For the scenario without electric bicycles Goudappel calculates proceeds of €144m annually.

Another recent report, The Cycling Dutchman, conducted by market researcher Blauw and commissioned by Royal Gazelle, found that the Dutch would ride more frequently and on longer trips if they owned an e-bike.

The report states that more and more people are abandoning their car in favour of a bike in any event: about 70% because of health reasons and a 40% for environmental reasons. However for distances over 8.6 kilometers the Dutch still are using their car it says.

A section of the report used test rides on electric bikes to reach some of its conclusion: 6 out of 10 of those trialling the e-bikes thought they would cycle more often and at longer distances when riding an e-bike, lending weight to the Goudappel Coffeng report’s thesis that more electric bikes would mean more cycling and longer cycle trips. 

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