Cycling: a big bonus for health… and for social security

Take the bike when you can leave the car, it is good against CO2. Okay in the face of rising prices at the pump. It’s nice to say damn Putin. And he is good for physical and mental fitness. But the latter topic is not very advanced in the public debate, observes Kévin Jean, epidemiologist at the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts (Cnam):

“Discussions about active transport, ie cycling and walking, are mainly about their climate benefits and their role in energy sovereignty. It is relevant, but obscures a third class of benefits, which are health benefits. “

Of course, it goes without saying that working your muscles a little to move is better than the other way around. According to the National Agency for Food Safety, Environment and Occupational Health (ANSES), 95% of French people are at risk of deteriorating their health due to lack of physical activity and / or sedentary excessive work. Physical inactivity is said to be the cause of 9% of deaths in Western countries. In France, an analysis by France Strategy estimates the annual social cost at 140 billion euros.

Walk and pedal more

But if we took more feet and bicycles, at a “dose” consistent with the national goal of having neutralized our greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, what would be the health gains for the whole of society, both in terms of years of life earned and health care costs avoided? This is the topic of a scientific paper recently published by five researchers, including Kévin Jean and energy and climate economist Philippe Quirion (Cired-CNRS).

The progression described in the négaWatt scenario would result in 5,000 deaths, all causes combined, avoided per year in 2030 (double the number of road accidents) and 10,000 by 2050

For the “prescribed dose” of active transport, the analysis is based on the prospective scenario of the négaWatt combination. If, in this view, walking progresses relatively little (+ 10% by 2050), the mileage and time spent cycling multiply by six: from about 3 to 18 km and from 10 minutes to 60 minutes on average per inhabitant and per week. It should be noted that most of this increase is achieved through the use of electrically assisted bicycles.

The result ? Compared to the unchanged use of cycling and walking, the progression described in the négaWatt scenario would result in 5,000 deaths, all causes combined, avoided per year in 2030 (double the number of road accidents) and 10,000 per year. horizon 2050. Figures that take into account the accidents and deaths linked to atmospheric pollution, but also the reduced muscular effort required by the electric bicycle.

In monetary terms, and based on the statistical value of one year of life gained in public spending, it would represent a community gain of 35 billion euros per year in the middle of the century. “It’s a very important number”observes Philippe Quirion. “For example, the cost differences between the different electrical mix scenarios are much smaller he continues, referring to the debate of the moment.

Inflate the bike plane

The public health benefits of such a scenario are not limited to active mobility. Those related to the improvement of air quality or those induced by noise reduction should be added. “In the ongoing debate on climate strategies, highlighting these health side benefits could encourage public support and commitment from decision makers. the researchers suggest.

More than a third of journeys in France are between 1 and 5 km and half of car journeys are less than 5 km

As for decision makers, Elisabeth Borne’s announcement to increase the bicycle plan to € 250 million a year, included in the 2023 Finance Act, is good news. “So far, the effort at the state level has been 50 million per year”welcomes Catherine Pilon, general delegate of the Club of cities and territories of cycling.

But remember that the commitment of the state, in addition to local authorities, “They should reach 500 million in annual investments to increase the modal share of cycling from 3% today to 12%, the national target for 2030”. Recall that more than a third of trips to France are between 1 and 5 km and half of car trips are less than 5 km …

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