The primary driving force behind the recent revitalization of cycling has been municipal efforts to promote the use of bicycles as a primary method of transportation. This has been accomplished predominantly through infrastructure and safety improvements, as well as comprehensive cycling promotion and planning programs (Pucher, Buehler & Seinen, 2011). Such efforts have been pursued to extract the immense benefits and potential savings that cycling offers: it is a carbon-neutral mode of transport; contributes to a reduction in traffic congestion, air and noise pollution levels; and preserves outdoor recreational space (de Hartog, Boogaard, Nijland & Hoek, 2010). A study by de Hartog et al. (2010) quantified the benefits of commuter cycling and found that a life expectancy gain of 3-14 months results from increased levels of physical activity; additionally, the study concluded the use of automobiles contributes to a loss in life expectancy of up to 40 days due to air pollution and up to an additional loss of 9 days due to motor vehicle accidents.
The increased levels of physical activity stemming from cycling can have a substantial impact on health care expenditures. It has been estimated that up to 16% of total health care expenditures are attributable to physical inactivity (Shinogle, 2008), and that the lifetime subsidy from others to those with a sedentary lifestyle is $1,900 (Grossman & Mocan, 2011). Increased cycling levels have the potential to reduce these severe health care costs by contributing to a more active society.
In Alberta, traffic accidents cost the province $3.5 billion annually - an average of approximately $171,500 per accident (Chakravorty, 1998). Similar per-accident costs can be expected in British Columbia. In 2010, 111 reported traffic incidents occurred on the Sea to Sky Highway, representing a significant cost to taxpayers. Improvements in cycling safety can limit the occurrence of accidents by reducing the number of avoidance maneuvers conducted by road users in efforts to avoid cyclists.
Cycling tourism remains a source of revenue for many municipalities in the Sea to Sky corridor, and events such as GranFondo attract many out-of-province cyclists. As the number of participants in the GranFondo grow year-over-year, this event has potential to be a substantial source of revenue in years ahead.
While the benefits of cycling are numerous, they exist only when cycling remains safe and accidents are limited. Cyclists hit at speeds exceeding 65 km/h have less than a 15% chance of survival (Hamilton & Stott, 2004). Such risks emphasize the importance to ensure the safety needs of cyclists on highways are met.
If safety improvements are pursued appropriately, the benefit-to-cost ratio can be substantial. Portland remains as an appropriate example of such potential: through three cycling initiatives [in Portland], studies concluded a benefit-to-cost ratio peaking at 3.8 (Gotschi, 2011).
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