Cyclists in the Netherlands live on average six months longer than their non-biking counterparts. Each year about 6.5 thousand* deaths are prevented in the country. These are the findings of the Healthy Urban Living research program undertaken at the University of Utrecht, published in the June 11 edition of the American Journal of Public Health.
The average Dutch person cycles about 75 minutes each week. That accounts for over a quarter of all trips made. We knew that our cycling culture made us healthier, but it wasn’t until recently that we learnt just how much. Researchers from Utrecht combined cycling statistics with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) new computational tool for the study.
Living half a year longer
The calculation tool enabled Utrecht University researchers to estimate how much the death rate in the Netherlands decreases through regular bicycle use. Researcher Dr Carlijn Kamphuis notes: "Data collected via the Research Movements in the Netherlands survey shows the mobility of approximately 50,000 Dutch people. This data was entered into the WHO system. From it we were able to calculate that on average, for every hour of cycling people live about an hour longer. For Dutch people, that equates to living for about six months longer for every 75 minutes of cycling each week. Additionally, it appears that about 6.5* thousand premature deaths are saved each year through cycling."
"This is important information to convince policy makers about the significance of promoting cycling measures" says Kamphuis. "The figures speak for themselves. An investment in better cycle paths, for example, is easily recovered through the enormous health benefits and potential financial savings. There are also other benefits from cycling including improved air quality, reduced traffic and as people move more, less burden due to illness. "
The Netherlands as a benchmark
Co-researcher Dr. Elliot Fishman, current director of the Institute for Sensible Transport in Melbourne, said: "When it comes to the benefits of cycling, the Netherlands can present these figures as a benchmark to the rest of the world. Nowhere in the world do people cycle as much as they do in the Netherlands. "
Fishman, E., Schepers, P., & Kamphuis, C. Dutch Cycling: Quantifying the Health and Related Economic Benefits. American Journal of Public Health. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2015.302724
Utrecht University and Sustainability
Sustainability, one of Utrecht University’s four strategic themes, is an important issue within the university’s research, education, valorisation and operations. The university sees it as its social responsibility to make an active ecological, economic and social contribution to a sustainable society. Utrecht University also considers it part of its duty to society to raise awareness among students and staff of the challenges in the area of sustainability, and to apply its research to contribute to solutions to these challenges.
*The previously mentioned amount of 11.000 proved incorrect. Our sincere apologies.