Replacing car trips by increasing bike and public transport in the greater Barcelona metropolitan area: a health impact assessment study

Environ Int. 2012 Nov 15:49:100-9. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2012.08.009. Epub 2012 Sep 21.


Objective: Estimate the health risks and benefits of mode shifts from car to cycling and public transport in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, Spain.

Methods: We conducted a health impact assessment (HIA), creating 8 different scenarios on the replacement of short and long car trips, by public transport or/and bike. The primary outcome measure was all-cause mortality and change in life expectancy related to two different assessments: A) the exposure of travellers to physical activity, air pollution to particulate matter <2.5 μm (PM2.5), and road traffic fatality; and B) the exposure of general population to PM2.5, modelling by Barcelona Air-Dispersion Model. The secondary outcome was a change in emissions of carbon dioxide.

Results: The annual health impact of a shift of 40% of the car trips, starting and ending in Barcelona City, to cycling (n=141,690) would be for the travellers who shift modes 1.15 additional deaths from air pollution, 0.17 additional deaths from road traffic fatality and 67.46 deaths avoided from physical activity resulting in a total of 66.12 deaths avoided. Fewer deaths would be avoided annually if half of the replaced trips were shifted to public transport (43.76 deaths). The annual health impact in the Barcelona City general population (n=1,630,494) of the 40% reduction in car trips would be 10.03 deaths avoided due to the reduction of 0.64% in exposure to PM2.5. The deaths (including travellers and general population) avoided in Barcelona City therefore would be 76.15 annually. Further health benefits would be obtained with a shift of 40% of the car trips from the Greater Barcelona Metropolitan which either start or end in Barcelona City to public transport (40.15 deaths avoided) or public transport and cycling (98.50 deaths avoided).The carbon dioxide reduction for shifting from car to other modes of transport (bike and public transport) in Barcelona metropolitan area was estimated to be 203,251t/CO₂ emissions per year.

Conclusions: Interventions to reduce car use and increase cycling and the use of public transport in metropolitan areas, like Barcelona, can produce health benefits for travellers and for the general population of the city. Also these interventions help to reduce green house gas emissions.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / prevention & control*
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Automobiles / statistics & numerical data*
  • Bicycling / statistics & numerical data*
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Cities / statistics & numerical data
  • Environmental Policy
  • Health Impact Assessment
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Spain


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter
  • Carbon Dioxide