Others have said that every 20 minute bike trip equals AUD$14.30 to the Australian economy, that cycling is worth DKK1.22 per km to Danish economy, and that accounting for fuel and health savings and factoring in the value of saved lives, Portland OR gains $5 for every $1 it spends on bike infrastructure. Facts like these are usually taken as evidence that slowing the pace of city life is in some counterintuitive way, good in terms of economics. I think that’s a misreading.
Quite aside from the health and fuel savings, cycling increases mobility and access in a city. Cities with good cycling amenity draw more economic activity from each person living there, every day. How much more could each of us achieve every day in a city actually designed around cycling? I don’t want to waste my life nibbling at car space. I want to inspire someone, somewhere, to build a new city from scratch, without any cars. I want to see a city with the population of Sydney, but covering a land mass one-twentieth the size, and I want there to be no cars in sight. I don’t care if this happens in the first world, or third, or if it has to happen on urban wastelands. I just want it to be shown to be feasible, and advantageous, to give the entire ground plane of a city to cycling, and let people make bee-lines to their destinations with no interruption from motorised vehicles.
According to the Bureau of Infrastructure Transport and Regional Economics, unjustifiable congestion cost Sydney $5.4billion last year. The sister city I would like to build for Sydney, would streak ahead to such a degree that transport economics would need to be reinvented.
Car-centric urban design principles from the Modernist era captured hearts and minds with a hollow promise of reduced trip times. What few comprehended is that cars reduce the time it takes to reach places (e.g. mountains and beaches). but that cars increase travel times between people in cities. Institutions that exist for people to meet (schools, shops, offices, entertainment facilities etc), get pushed apart time-wise in a city where everybody comes wrapped in a car.
When I say my expertise is bicycle urban design, I think most people assume I would like us all to slow down, take a step back, chill for a while, and turn our backs on machine-age design theory. I think the opposite. I would like, before I die, to fulfil the Modernist promise of reduced trip times. I can’t promise the shortest trip time to mountain tops or to beaches. But a bicycle city could get everyone to work and to school a lot faster than with a car, bus or train system.