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EU Urban Mobility Observatory
News article16 July 20181 min read

Study suggests that extending cycling networks could save lives

Researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) were commissioned to analyse data from 167 European cities and found a clear link between the length of the designated cycling network in cities and health and economic benefits. The study was funded by the European Commissions PASTA Project (Physical Activity though Sustainable Transport Approaches) and suggested that if all of the 167 studies cities were to increase the length of their cycling network by around one quarter, more than 10,000 premature deaths could be avoided per year.

The health benefits of active transport (walking and cycling), as opposed to being inactive, have been been recognised for a long time. This study took the analysis a step further by comparing the health benefits gained from an increase in cycling to the costs incurred, including the impact of air pollution. It found that switching to active transport provides more benefits (resulting from increased physical activity) than harm, e.g. as a result of being exposed to air pollution. As air pollution improves in cities, the net benefits of increasing cycling will increase.  

London was considered to be the European city that could benefit the most from longer cycling networks. One scenario (in which London had bike lanes in all city streets) found that 1,210 premature deaths could be avoided every year in the city, with Rome preventing 433 deaths and Barcelona 248 from the same scenario. The analysis also suggests that the health benefits outweigh the investment costs of building additional cycling infrastructure. This suggests that all cities should prioritise infrastructure for active transport, as it brings net economic benefits to society.



Publication date
16 July 2018
  • Policy and research
  • Walking and cycling
  • Europe-wide