Cost-benefit analyses also possible for cycling projects
A switch from the car or bus to the bike has a positive social benefit that can vary from a few Euro cents per kilometre when switching from car to bike, to about 50 cents when switching from bus to bike. This is the result of an exploratory study to assess the application of cost-benefit analyses to cycling projects.
Cost-benefit analyses have been for a long time part of normal procedure for large infrastructure projects. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment has been using the so-called OEI (Overzicht Effecten Infrastructuur) methodology. For bicycle infrastructure this methodology has been applied little or not at all, partly because the investments are relatively small. For this reason, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment has asked several bureaus (such as the Decision and Transaction Management Centre) to quickly investigate the possibility of applying OEI to cycling measures.
By way of a trial, a comparison was made between the social costs and benefits of travelling a kilometre by bicycle with costs and benefits of travelling a kilometre by car and by bus. After allowing for some margin in the calculations, it turns out that the switch from bus to bike yields a benefit of about 50 Euro cents per kilometre. The switch from car to bike in rural areas yields a benefit of 4 to 7 cents per kilometre and 11 to 41 cents within city limits. These are the amounts that society must be able to pay if it wishes to persuade someone to commute by bike, according to the researchers.
The cost and benefits of a new bicycle bridge over the Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal waterway were also calculated. The bridge would establish a direct link between Leidsche Rijn and Oog in Al. On average the calculated amounts are in favour of the bicycle bridge. The costs would outweigh the benefits only in the most pessimistic scenarios.
The conclusion of this exploratory study is that cost-benefit analyses of cycling infrastructure projects, as well as of other cycling measures, are a useful instrument to assist decision-making. On the other hand, this exercise also revealed that while a good basis for decision-making may have been established, the methodology, parameters, and traffic models are all less evolved than those used for cost-benefit analyses of large infrastructure projects. According to the study report, there should be follow-up research in this area.