An Economic Analysis of the Health-Related Benefits Associated With Bicycle Infrastructure Investment in Three Canadian Cities

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Whitehurst, D. G. T., DeVries, D. N., Fuller, D., & Winters, M. (2021). An economic analysis of the health-related benefits associated with bicycle infrastructure investment in three Canadian cities. PLOS ONE, 16(2), e0246419.

Date created: 
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0246419


Decision-makers are increasingly requesting economic analyses on transportation-related interventions, but health is often excluded as a determinant of value. We assess the health-related economic impact of bicycle infrastructure investments in three Canadian cities (Victoria, Kelowna and Halifax), comparing a baseline reference year (2016) with the future infrastructure build-out (2020).


The World Health Organization’s Health Economic Assessment Tool (HEAT; version 4.2) was used to quantify the economic value of health benefits associated with increased bicycling, using a 10-year time horizon. Outputs comprise premature deaths prevented, carbon emissions avoided, and a benefit:cost ratio. For 2016–2020, we derived cost estimates for bicycle infrastructure investments (including verification from city partners) and modelled three scenarios for changes in bicycling mode share: ‘no change’, ‘moderate change’ (a 2% increase), and ‘major change’ (a 5% increase). Further sensitivity analyses (32 per city) examined how robust the moderate scenario findings were to variation in parameter inputs.


Planned bicycle infrastructure investments between 2016 and 2020 ranged from $28–69 million (CAD; in 2016 prices). The moderate scenario benefit:cost ratios were between 1.7:1 (Victoria) and 2.1:1 (Halifax), with the benefit estimate incorporating 9–18 premature deaths prevented and a reduction of 87–142 thousand tonnes of carbon over the 10-year time horizon. The major scenario benefit:cost ratios were between 3.9:1 (Victoria) and 4.9:1 (Halifax), with 19–43 premature deaths prevented and 209–349 thousand tonnes of carbon averted. Sensitivity analyses showed the ratio estimates to be sensitive to the time horizon, investment cost and value of a statistical life inputs.


Within the assessment framework permitted by HEAT, the dollar value of health-related benefits exceeded the cost of planned infrastructure investments in bicycling in the three study cities. Depending on the decision problem, complementary analyses may be required to address broader questions relevant to decision makers in the public sector.

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