By Waheeda Harris
A recent survey by scientists at the University of Wisconsin looked at the economic benefits of urban dwellers switching from a car to a bike for trips of less than five miles in 11 metropolitan areas of the northern Midwest US.
The societal health benefits were gauged in terms of medical costs, mortality rates, car accidents, physical fitness and air pollution. Scientists found that if inhabitants in a sample region were to switch from driving to biking only for errands requiring less than 25 minutes of cycling, the result would be an annual $3.8 billion saved in health care costs and 1,100 fewer deaths from road accidents.
The study conservatively assumed Midwesterners would only cycle in good weather—approximately four months of days per year. Yet, according to Bicycling Magazine, in 2010 Minneapolis, Minnesota, was named the top city for cycling in the United States, a city that certainly has four seasons.
In Canada, Montreal gets the nod as the only Canadian city—out of 80 cities worldwide—on the 2011 Bicycle-Friendly Cities index, compiled by Danish consulting firm Copenhagenize. Montreal, which came in at number eight, was chosen for its $100-million-plus investment in revamping bike trails, its long-standing cycling infrastructure and being the first North American city to launch urban bike-sharing program Bixi.