The city of Helsinki has set up a target to increase the modal share of cycling to 15 % by the year 2020, and at the same time halve the number of fatal accidents. To support decision making and planning for cycling, Helsinki has produced a comprehensive study on the benefits and costs of cycling.
In recent years more and more research on the socio-economic benefits of cycling has been published. However, tools and methods adapted to a Finnish framework have not been available. In 2012, the City Planning Department in Helsinki decided to create, in cooperation with WSP Finland Ltd., a tool to evaluate and calculate the cost and benefits of new investments targeted at cycling.
The starting point for socio-economic cost-benefit analysis is to compare the alternative development options to a baseline – the current investment level including the necessary actions. In this study, the baseline is (0+) and the investment in cycling will remain at the current level of 5 million euro per year. In addition to the current investment programme, the impacts of two alternative development programmes (of 10 and 20 million euro) on the number of cyclists and construction of cycle network were analysed.
The investment programme behind the options is mainly based on the infrastructure projects that are included in the development plan for the main bicycle routes in the downtown area, and a preparatory plan for a high quality cycle highway network. Both projects aim to develop an integrated and high grade cycle network, the first priority being a decrease in travels times, thus improving the competitiveness of cycling.
According to the study, both alternative investment programmes would have significant health and socio-economic benefits. The benefit-cost ratio compared to ordinary infrastructure investments, is nearly 8:1 for both options. This means that every euro invested will bring 8 euro profit to society. When it comes to net benefits, the 20 million investment programme is more profitable.
The benefits gained by the 20 million investment programme consist mainly of health benefits and time-savings. The biggest cost items are the costs of accidents, and the investment cost itself. With annual investments of 20 million in cycle facilities, a 30 % increase in cycled kilometres could be achieved by 2025. The modal share of bicycle journeys made during the entire year, would increase from about 6% to 11% by the year 2025.
The calculations do not however include the actions related to bicycle services, communication and marketing measures, which, in practice, have an influence on the modal share of cycling, and thus the benefits gained by increased cycling.
Source: City of Helsinki report Pyöräilyn hyödyt ja kustannukset Helsingissä (in Finnish)