Increasing regular physical activity is a key public health goal. One strategy is to change the physical environment to encourage walking and cycling, requiring partnerships with the transport and urban planning sectors. Economic evaluation is an important factor in the decision to fund any new transport scheme, but techniques for assessing the economic value of the health benefits of cycling and walking have tended to be less sophisticated than the approaches used for assessing other benefits. This study aimed to produce a practical tool for estimating the economic impact of reduced mortality due to increased cycling. The tool was intended to be transparent, easy to use, reliable, and based on conservative assumptions and default values, which can be used in the absence of local data. It addressed the question: For a given volume of cycling within a defined population, what is the economic value of the health benefits? The authors used published estimates of relative risk of all-cause mortality among regular cyclists and applied these to levels of cycling defined by the user to produce an estimate of the number of deaths potentially averted because of regular cycling. The tool then calculates the economic value of the deaths averted using the "value of a statistical life." The outputs of the tool support decision making on cycle infrastructure or policies, or can be used as part of an integrated economic appraisal. The tool's unique contribution is that it takes a public health approach to a transport problem, addresses it in epidemiologic terms, and places the results back into the transport context. Examples of its use include its adoption by the English and Swedish departments of transport as the recommended methodologic approach for estimating the health impact of walking and cycling.
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