Greater use of bicycles as a means of transport could prevent more than 205,000 premature deaths per year. These are the estimates of a study carried out by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), together with Colorado State University.
The study analysed current trends in urban cycling in 17 countries on 5 continents and considered different scenarios that could occur in 2050. To this end, the benefits and risks associated with cycling as a means of transport were studied, assessing the health effects of physical activity, the risk of traffic accidents and pollution inhalation.
The results show that in the best-case scenario, where the highest levels of urban cycling are achieved and where 100% of the new cycling trips replace car trips, 205,424 premature deaths per year could be avoided. A more realistic approach where only 8% of the new cycling trips replace car trips, could already prevent 18,589 deaths per year.
However, as Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, director of ISGlobal’s Urban Planning, Environment and Health Initiative and one of the authors of the study, points out, “people will only cycle when it is safe. This is why we urgently need a cycling network that ensures safety and enables people to reach their destinations”. As a result, global policies that facilitate and encourage urban cycling are needed to minimise the number of premature deaths per year.
Egiguren J., Nieuwenhuijsen M.J., Rojas-Rueda D. Premature Mortality of 2050 High Bike Use Scenarios in 17 Countries. Environmental Health Perspectives 129:12 CID: 127002. 2021. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP9073