Dr. David Rojas-Rueda, an avid urban cycler, led a research study at Colorado State University (CSU) that found a strong link between global biking policies and mortality benefits. The research, conducted in collaboration with scientists from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, found that up to 205,424 premature deaths could be prevented each year with the support of high levels of urban cycling in 17 countries. The estimate for premature deaths prevented in the U.S. by support of urban cycling is 15,000 each year.

“This study should be seen as a call to implement policies that support sustainable mobility and a healthy urban design,” Rojas-Rueda said. “Current policies will impact our future and the health of future generations.”

The researchers modeled the benefits of promoting urban cycling up to 2050 if 100% of bike trips replace trips by car. They compared current cycling trends with high levels of urban cycling in Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S., using a quantitative health impact assessment methodology, which accounted for cycling’s physical activity benefits and the risks of traffic fatalities and inhaling air pollution during bike trips. They focused on adults in these countries and included the impact of mechanical and electric bikes.

The 2050 high cycling scenarios described in the research were based on policies known to quickly increase biking levels. These include:

- Retrofitting biking infrastructure onto existing roads to create networks on arterial streets, small residential streets, and intercity roads.

- Implementation of bike-share systems in large cities.

- Reforming laws and enforcement practices to better protect active transport.

- Investment in walking facilities and public transport to offer trips that can be combined with bike trips.

- Elimination of policies that support additional motorized vehicle use, such as free parking and fuel subsidies.

- Establishment of congestion pricing, travel fees and development impact fees to charge a price for driving.

The study is published in Environmental Health Perspectives,

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