A Cost Benefit Analysis of an Active Travel Intervention with Health and Carbon Emission Reduction Benefits

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 May 11;15(5):962. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15050962.


Active travel (walking and cycling) is beneficial for people’s health and has many co-benefits, such as reducing motor vehicle congestion and pollution in urban areas. There have been few robust evaluations of active travel, and very few studies have valued health and emissions outcomes. The ACTIVE before-and-after quasi-experimental study estimated the net benefits of health and other outcomes from New Zealand’s Model Communities Programme using an empirical analysis comparing two intervention cities with two control cities. The Programme funded investment in cycle paths, other walking and cycling facilities, cycle parking, ‘shared spaces’, media campaigns and events, such as ‘Share the Road’, and cycle-skills training. Using the modified Integrated Transport and Health Impacts Model, the Programme’s net economic benefits were estimated from the changes in use of active travel modes. Annual benefits for health in the intervention cities were estimated at 34.4 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and two lives saved due to reductions in cardiac disease, diabetes, cancer, and respiratory disease. Reductions in transport-related carbon emissions were also estimated and valued. Using a discount rate of 3.5%, the estimated benefit/cost ratio was 11:1 and was robust to sensitivity testing. It is concluded that when concerted investment is made in active travel in a city, there is likely to be a measurable, positive return on investment.

Keywords: ACTIVE; ITHIM; active travel; climate change; co-benefit; cost benefit analysis; discounting; health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Air Pollution / economics*
  • Carbon / analysis*
  • Cities
  • Climate Change
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Environmental Pollution / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Vehicles*
  • New Zealand
  • Program Evaluation / economics*
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Travel
  • Walking


  • Carbon