Bike lanes are a sound public health investment
Published September 29, 2016 Reuters
Every $1,300 New York City invested in building bike lanes in 2015 provided benefits equivalent to one additional year of life at full health over the lifetime of all city residents, according to a new economic assessment.
That’s a better return on investment than some direct health treatments, like dialysis, which costs $129,000 for one quality-adjusted life year, or QALY, said coauthor Dr. Babak Mohit of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York.
Our greatest public health intervention, vaccines, take about $100 investment to yield one QALY, Mohit told Reuters Health by phone.
New York built 45.5 miles of bike lanes in 2015, with an investment of about $8 million. This increased the probability that residents would ride a bike by 9 percent, the researchers calculated.
“For bike lanes the cost per QALY is $1,300, a little bit higher than vaccines but way lower than most medical interventions that we have in healthcare,” Mohit said. “We’re finding more and more of these social interventions are not directly medically related but have an extremely positive effect on giving us more life years.”
Bike lanes increase both recreational and commuter biking, he added.
“I definitely think there’s room for expansion of bike lanes, the city spends $67,000 per QALY for Medicaid and we think spending $1,300 per QALY buys you a lot more life for a lot less money,” Mohit said.
The data here is unique to New York, but even in some European cities where there are bike lanes on practically every street, researchers are still seeing additional benefit to adding bike lanes to more rural roads, he noted.
The authors also point out that their model can be adjusted by other cities to calculate the benefits of making bike riding easier in those communities.