Biking for short trips equals significant health benefits

A new study conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has discovered that there are significant health benefits to commuters who replace short car trips with biking. The study concluded that if Midwesterners ran half of their short distance errands by bike rather than car, 1100 deaths would be avoided each year and $7 billion would be saved in health care costs.

The study simulated changes in hourly pollutant concentrations from the elimination of automobile trips five miles or less in distance, in the Upper Midwestern US using an air quality model. Annual changes in health benefits and costs expected from variations in pollution levels were calculated using the EPA’s Benefit Mapping Analysis Program (BenMap). In addition, a WHO tool was used to quantify the benefits of increased physical activity if 50% of all short trips were made by bicycle.

“We were conservative,” says Jonathan Patz, a physician and co-author of the study, who heads the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The researchers estimated that people in the Midwest would do errands by bike only in the best 124 days of weather each year. “It’s only about 4 months’ worth of biking.”

Read the article on NPR here.