The value of cycling

This study commissioned by the Department for Transport, and conducted by the University of Birmingham and Phil Jones Associates in 2016, explores the value of cycling as a form of transport. It highlights a myriad of benefits, from increased retail expenditure, to employment generation, or improved public health. This piece of work also considers the way these benefits have been captured in the literature, and to what extent the more difficult to monetarize benefits (e.g. social impacts) are presented in regards to the successful promotion of this active form of transport.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 28 September 2021

This report commissioned by the Department for Transport – The value of cycling – is written by Fiona Rajé and Andrew Saffrey as an outcome of the work conducted by a partnership between the University of Birmingham and Phil Jones Associates, an independent transport planning and design consultancy. This document presents findings of a literature review concerned with identifying the economic benefits of cycling as a form of transport. It encompasses a diversity of benefits including revenue, employment generation, public health, or decongestion. It also considers benefits for people and places at different levels, from the neighbourhood to the national level.

This piece of work concludes that although there is an agreement across the literature about the positive impacts and substantial value of cycling, often these are difficult to capture. Although aspects that are easier to monetarize might appear easier to work with, other associate factors (e.g. social impacts) need to be captured in a holistic model if this form of transport is to successfully compete for funding and recognition.

Key report findings 

In terms of the many benefits, this research highlights that infrastructure cost in urban sprawls can be double as high as that in compact and cycle-friendly cities. These type of cities and neighbourhoods in turn, are more desirable which is translated into higher property values.

Furthermore, bike friendly town centres bring about more retail expenditure, not only because cyclists are more likely to visit local shops on their commutes, but also because they have more disposable income, as travel costs associated to this form of transport are reduced.

This investigation also finds that cycling infrastructure offers greater access to employment opportunities, in for example, overcoming transport exclusion of different socio-demographic groups. It is also translated into less staff turnover and attraction of creative talent.

Economic benefits are also seen as tourism attraction, as visitors can be keener on cities that they can visit by bike, or on trails across nature or sites of cultural heritage importance.

Investment in cycling as a form of transport also brings about economic benefits in terms of reduced expenditure on healthcare. Regular cyclists engage in physical activity which is translated into improved physical and mental public health, as for example, workplaces and schools report better results as matter of reduced sick days and better productivity.