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Increased use of bikes for commuting offers economic, health benefits
Date:11/1/2011

MADISON Cutting out short auto trips and replacing them with mass transit and active transport would yield major health benefits, according to a study just published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The biggest health benefit was due to replacing half of the short trips with bicycle trips during the warmest six months of the year, saving about $3.8 billion per year from avoided mortality and reduced health care costs for conditions like obesity and heart disease.

The report calculated that these measures would save an estimated $7 billion, including 1,100 lives each year from improved air quality and increased physical fitness.

Moving five-mile round trips from cars to bikes is a win-win situation that is often ignored in discussions of transportation alternatives, says Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "We talk about the cost of changing energy systems, the cost of alternative fuels, but we seldom talk about this kind of benefit."

The study of the largest 11 metropolitan statistical areas in the upper Midwest began by identifying the air pollution reductions that would result from eliminating the short auto trips.

A small average reduction in very fine particles, which lodge deep in the lung and have repeatedly been tied to asthma, which affects 8.2 percent of U.S. citizens, and deaths due to cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, was a major source of health benefits, says co-author Scott Spak, who worked on the study at UW-Madison and is now at the University of Iowa.

"The reductions tend to be much larger during high pollution episodes, and even small changes reduce a chronic exposure that affects the 31.3 million people living throughout the region -- not just in these metropolitan areas, but even hundreds of miles downwind," Spak says.

The study projected that 433 lives would be saved due to the re
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Contact: Jonathan Patz
patz@wisc.edu
608-262-4775
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

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