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G-1 APPENDIX G RECREATION AND REDUCED AUTO USE BENEFITS The material in this appendix is adapted from a longer report on the A wide variety of studies of outdoor recreational activities (non- benefits of bicycling in Minnesota (224). bicycling) generated typical values of about $40 per day in 2004 dollars (245). If a typical day of recreation is about 4 hours, this would be about $10/hour. Note that this is an estimate of the net benefits, USER BENEFITS: HEALTH AND RECREATION above and beyond the value of the time taken by the activity itself. This estimate is also in line with a recent study of urban trails in In general people bicycle because they enjoy the activity and the Indianapolis, which used the travel cost method to find typical improved sense of well-being and health that comes from it. There implied values per trip of about $7 to $20 (246). is value in this, although it is not reflected in any monetary transac- tion. An improved bicycling environment will make riding more enjoyable when it is done, and will likely increase the frequency AUTO SUBSTITUTION BENEFITS with which it is done; both factors will increase the overall size of this benefit. This section discusses three categories of benefits related to auto Our concern here is with the non-monetary benefits derived from substitution: lower transportation costs for bicyclists, reduced govern- user enjoyment of bicycling and its effects, including health. By this mental and infrastructure costs, and reducing problems associated we mean simply the greater sense of well-being that comes from with automobile use. Although our work leads us to conclude that being healthy rather than sick. There are also monetary benefits of these benefits are relatively small, we treat them at some length here better health such as reduced medical costs and less missed work; because they are generally considered to be of great importance in the these are discussed later as societal benefits. bicycle advocacy literature. Because of this we felt that it was impor- It is hard to place a value on recreation and on improved health tant to explain in some depth our reasons for considering these ben- separately. One approach to dealing with both these issues is to treat efits to be of only minor significance. them jointly. This approach would assume that the individual who The arguments for these benefits, and calculations of their sizes, are chooses to ride a bike derives some personal non-financial benefits summarized in the work of Litman (225); his discussion is generally representative of other work in this area. All of these benefits ulti- from doing so, in terms of better health and general enjoyment, but mately rely on some assumption of bicycle travel substituting for does not try to disentangle this bundle of benefits into its compo- car travel, with correspondingly reduced costs of some type. There nents, instead simply comparing the overall size of the bundle to the are two broad issues that impact the potential size of benefits from costs of participating in the activity. For any person who partici- this source. pates in the activity, the bundle of benefits must exceed the time, The first is that the fraction of total bicycling that is actually replac- money, or other costs of participation. Estimates of non-monetary ing a driving trip is probably very small. All sources agree that more value then reflect this entire bundle rather than any individual com- than half of all riding is recreational or fitness-oriented; these rides ponent of it. almost certainly are not substituting for a driving trip, and may even While there is a monetary cost to owning and maintaining a bike, be creating extra driving if people drive their bikes somewhere else the apparent cost of any given ride is generally very low. The larger to ride. Even of those trips that are utilitarian in nature, it could be cost of riding is the value of the time that it takes. If one supposes, that the trip would have been made by transit, walking, as a car pas- as is common in transportation work, that the average person values senger, or not at all if not made by bike. Evidence from the NPTS time at about $10/hr, then the typical hour bike ride, including some suggests that of those people who usually commute to work by bike, preparation and cleanup time, must be generating at least $10 in non- only about 40% drive on the days that they do not bike; the others monetary benefits to justify the time taken. Since the total benefits use transit, walk, or ride with someone else. must exceed the total costs to justify the activity, the total benefits are The second reason that biking probably does not have much impact certainly higher than this. on broader transportation problems is that there is so little of it rel- Three methods for estimating the value of recreational activities ative to the amount of driving. Total daily miles of travel by bike in a and facilities have been informally sanctioned by the federal govern- typical city are perhaps 0.25% of daily vehicle miles of travel by cars. ment in the form of guidelines for their application. All tend to yield This will certainly have no impact on overall infrastructure needs, similar results. Perhaps the most relevant for this situation is the and it is hard to imagine that it could have much impact on congestion "travel cost" approach. Very briefly, the idea of this is to measure except possibly in a few isolated situations. and value the time spent accessing the activity, and to value the net benefits of the activity as being at least this value. That is, the total benefits of participation, minus the costs incurred by participating, Lower Transportation Costs for Bicyclists must be greater than the cost of accessing the activity in the first place. A person who makes a two-hour round trip to get to a bike The notion that bicycling reduces transportation costs tends to trail, at $10 per hour, must place a net value on the bike ride itself rely on some combination of two assumptions, each of which is of at least $20. questionable. The first is that a bicycle does not cost very much to
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G-2 operate compared with a car. The second is that the extra time (not to This is more likely to be an issue in dense areas, and for those com- mention inconvenience) that is needed to make trips by bike rather muters who would drive if they didn't bike. While this could be sub- than car is not really a cost. We address each of these in turn. stantial in some cases, it is location-specific and hence difficult to Litman states that the variable costs of bicycling are 1 cent per estimate in a general way. mile. These seem low by perhaps a factor of 10 or 20. Parts wear These results are a small fraction of the level that Litman asserts. out, or are damaged in crashes. The chain needs to be cleaned and We believe that the true value is closer to zero, as we are ignoring lubricated; the tires need to be inflated. It is impossible to use a bike the extra time costs usually associated with bicycling and probably for 5,000 miles without doing any maintenance on it, as is routinely underestimating the monetary costs. done with cars. Even if the rider does this work, the time costs of doing it should be counted as a cost of riding. If one rides any significant amount, or uses the bike for utilitarian purposes, then specialized Reduced Governmental and Infrastructure Costs clothing and other equipment will typically also be purchased. A pair of mid-priced tires, as an example, might cost about $50, Litman and some advocates argue that bicycling saves costs of and might last about 5,000 miles. This is 1 cent per mile, about the roads, parking, and other transportation infrastructure and mainte- per-mile cost of car tires. Spending three minutes every 100 miles nance. These arguments, however, rely on a confusion of fixed and or so to inflate the tires is 50 cents worth of time, or 0.5 cents per mile. variable costs. Most state and federal roads are more or less fully The chain should be cleaned every 500 miles at least, at a time cost funded through fuel taxes and other fees, so that any additional costs of about $5, or 1 cent per mile. The occasional tube puncture imposes created by driving are paid for by taxes on driving. In this sense driv- a monetary and time cost. As with cars, more expensive repairs and ing does not create a financial burden on government in general. The tune-ups are sometimes necessary. Expensive bike-specific clothing, exception is local streets and roads, which are often paid for by a near necessity if one rides very much, wears out after a few hundred property taxes and hence could be considered to be "subsidized." miles (and must be laundered in the interim). We are not aware that However, philosophically, local streets are paid for by property anyone has really tried to systematically determine these costs, but taxes because their primary purpose is considered to be providing the author's personal experience does not lead him to believe that access to property, not transportation (227). A person who rides a bike he saves money when he rides a bike rather than driving. and never drives still needs streets. In any case, the primary cost of Even in terms of fuel, consider that a mile of biking might burn streets in most developed areas is for cleaning, snow plowing, and perhaps 50 calories. A dollar would buy roughly somewhere between routine maintenance. None of these things will need to be done with 100 and 1,000 calories worth of replacement food, depending on the any less frequency if bikes are used instead of cars; indeed, they might type of food. At 500 calories per dollar, the replacement food is cost- be even more important for bikes. The need for maintenance arises ing 10 cents per mile, a cost that is not really any cheaper than the gas primarily from weather, the passage of time, and heavy trucks and needed to drive a car the same distance. To the possible objection other equipment, not from cars. The fact that a certain amount of that people enjoy eating but not putting gas in their car, we respond money is spent each year, and a certain number of miles are driven yes, but that benefit is already counted as part of the non-monetary in cars, does not mean that the amount of money would go down if recreational benefits mentioned previously. Here we are talking the number of miles driven did. That is, these costs are largely fixed; about monetary costs, and whether it is possible to save money by riding a bike will not save the government money. riding a bike. Similarly for parking (the governmental or private costs of provid- The overall variable costs of operating a car (the costs that actually ing it, not the costs to the user), almost all the cost is the fixed cost go up as the car is driven more) are about 15 to 20 cents per mile of creating the facility in the first place; shifting a trip from car to bike depending on the degree of stop and go traffic conditions (226). These will not change this. In cases where parking is in very short supply, costs include fuel, tires, maintenance and repairs, and depreciation. the fact that bicyclists are not taking up spaces may create some con- Of these, depreciation is probably the only area where a bike may venience for others who are able to park in areas that would other- be cheaper. Overall a bike seems likely to be more expensive for wise have been full, but the value of this seems unlikely to be large off-peak travel (when cars are cheaper to operate), and even for peak because so few trips are made by bike compared with cars. travel the difference seems unlikely to be more than three cents per One possible exception to this argument would be those cases mile, and likely zero if clothing is included as part of the cost, as we where costs are incurred to expand streets to alleviate heavy traffic believe it should be. This is substantially less than Litman's estimated conditions. In this case less traffic could mean eliminating or at least savings of 11 to 17 cents per mile. delaying these expenditures. However, as a practical matter, the A second point concerns the time costs of biking versus driving. amount of bike-car replacement is so small that it cannot possibly While there may be isolated situations of extreme congestion where influence these decisions, even in terms of timing, compared with biking is faster, in general there will be a time penalty to riding a more important factors such as funding availability, environmental bike rather than driving. While Litman argues that since this time impact issues, and even more significant alternative modes such as penalty is incurred voluntarily it should not be counted as a cost, we transit. contend that this falls into the same category as food. Litman's point is that if someone enjoys riding then the extra time it takes is not really a cost to that person. But again, we are counting this enjoy- Reducing External Problems Associated ment value as part of the non-monetary recreational benefits. The with Automobile Use fact that there is a compensating benefit does not mean that there is not a cost as well. A final set of minor benefits are those that have to do with reduc- Another possible source of user savings is parking, for those ing external problems associated with automobile use, primarily commuters who work in areas where parking fees must be paid. congestion and air pollution.
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G-3 Litman claims, citing a Minnesota study (228), that urban con- car to bike are limited. The average congestion costs on the non- gestion costs range from 5 to 30 cents per vehicle mile. However, freeway streets that bikes can use is more in the range of 0 to 5 cents this study was examining primarily the Twin Cities freeway and a vehicle mile; the high end is achieved only in a few especially major arterial network, in the context of understanding how con- problematic places. gestion pricing could reduce these costs in part by shifting trips to With regard to air pollution, Litman cites sources indicating that less congested (but slower) alternate routes. Most of the value of the average costs of air pollution caused by automobiles are about 5 cents congestion reduction comes from shifting traffic off of freeways per mile for urban driving and 1 cent per mile for rural (rural emis- and on to other routes. Once this takes place, the congestion costs sions cause fewer costs because there are fewer people around to be are already greatly reduced; further reductions due to shifting from affected by them).