One Mile On A Bike Is a $ .42 Gain To Society

Being healthy, keeping the world healthy for others, and being concerned about something other than dollars when we talk about investments and infrastructure: these are parts of being a good man.

Can you say your business plan is complete if it hasn’t taken the next seven generations into consideration? If it makes you the “man who sold the world”?

According to, the city of Copenhagen is a healthier, wealthier place because of the large population (around 80%) of bicycle-commuters:

“When all these factors are added together the net social gain is DKK 1.22 per cycled kilometer. For purposes of comparison there is a net social loss of DKK 0.69 per kilometer driven by car.” 1.22 Danish crowns is about 25 cents and a kilometer is 6/10 of a mile, so we are talking about a net economic gain to society of 42 cents for every bicycle mile traveled. That’s a good number to have in your back pocket”

All in all, it is figured that the city of Copenhagen saves $357 million a year in health costs because of all of these bike commuters.

So, how can the rest of us be more like Copenhagen?


Photo courtesy of Hunter-Desportes

About Justin Cascio

Justin Cascio is a writer, trans man, and biome. His most recent publication is a short memoir, "Heartbreak and Detox," available on Kindle.
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  1. Where I live, it’s 30+ degrees celcius with high humidity a lot of the year so we’d need showers in every workplace, or get use to very stinky people:P
    People also live 10-15km from their workplace, quite a few are more like 50-100km so riding to work would take a long time. Australia is also quite spread out, and in rural areas like where I live….a car is essential. Public transport is only half decent in the city, although they have the problem where it takes 1-2 hours on a bus to get to their workplace or 10 minute drive for some people.

    I’d love to bike everywhere but it just isn’t really possible, especially if I am lugging my camera gear and don’t want to sweat like crazy. Infrastructure to bike around is sorely needed….

  2. Anthony Zarat says:

    When I visited Europe as a young man (1989), I biked from London to Munich and back. There is no way I could have done that in the United States. It has to do with infrastructure. The issue is 90% safety. Getting on a bicyle in most US cities is suicide.

    Europeans have had more success than we have with bike acceptance because they began with city-to-city leisure approaches, instead of urban area communtes. Some points:

    1) Bike lanes are very cheap — between $5000 and $50000 per mile (according to For comparison, in Seattle each mile of two-way single lane automobile roadway costs 7 million (according to seattle times). However, bike lanes are very hazardous and, in my opinion, useless. Don’t get on a bike lane unless you want to stuff a coffin.

    2) Exclusive use bike paths INSIDE CITIES are incredibly expensive. A two mile bike path in Los Angeles was budgeted at 30 million dollars (LA times).

    3) Exclusive use bike paths BETWEEN CITIES are very affordable. In the 1980s and 1990s, Florida built a number of exclusive use bike paths connecting cities. One 30 mile stretch between Gainesville and Hawthonrne cost 1.5 million dollars (3.9 million in today’s dollars, or 120,000 per mile). While not as inexpensive as painting a bike lane onto an existing road, this option has a very nice silver lining: it generates new economic activity. Remember those 1980s bike paths in Florida? According to the Orlando Sentinel, these bike pahts currently pump $42 million per year into the state economy. That is much more money than the cost of the bike paths.

    Exclusive use bike paths inside cities: $15,000,000 per mile
    Exclusive use bike paths between cities: $120,000 per mile
    Bike lanes in urban areas: $50,000 per mile (death traps, don’t use)

    Conclusion: Bike based solutions to the daily commute are a much bigger challenge than bike based solutions to the weekend adventure.

  3. It just takes a little faith and effort. I’ve ridden a bike for my primary transportation almost all my life, from biking to school as a kid, in college, and now commuting to work and back as an adult. So far, I’ve displaced well over 150,000 car miles on a bicycle, and I’m still pedaling strong. And yes, I do enjoy excellent health and virtually no healthcare costs, especially for my age. Beyond that, I enjoy all the other direct dollar savings, too.

    I live in the midwest USA, so I deal with all the weather extremes – bitter cold, snow and ice in winter, and extreme heat and humidity in summer. It takes some planning and the right gear (not expensive stuff), but it CAN be done. I realize it can’t work for everyone, but it can work for a LOT more people than it does now. Once you break through the mental barriers, you’ll find out it’s a really sweet deal.

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