Published on July 24, 2015 by Darin White  

As the Tour de France comes to a close in the next few days, cycling in the U.S. has never been more popular. NBCSN’s coverage is up 18% versus the same time frame in 2014 and cycling fans have streamed more than 38 million minutes of live Tour de France action on NBC Sports Live Extra, for a spike of 42% over 2014 (Cynopsis).

This is great news according to new research coming out of the University of California. They produced a landmark study which examined more than 500 existing studies from 17 countries to identify the impact that cycling/walking programs have on cities. The results show that bike share programs, like the one which will launch in Birmingham in September 2015 and other programs focused on building cycling/walking infrastructure have a “massive positive impact on a city”. Some of the benefits include:

* Cycling/walking projects return an average of $20 in economic benefit for every $1.50 invested.

* Local trade can be boosted by up to 40% in an area where more people cycle/walk.

* Massive savings in healthcare cost. The study estimated that investment in cycling schemes in the U.S. city of Portland could save almost $12.4 billion by 2040 in better public health. Additionally, they estimate that over 700,000 people per year die in Europe due to a sedentary lifestyle.

* The positive financial impact accrues from several areas including better economic productivity from city residents, higher property values, improved school performance, healthier population, more trade for local stores, less traffic congestion, reduced pollution, reduced time off work, significantly less crime, and better mental health and wellbeing.

Chad Spoon, from the University of California’s Active Living research unit, said the hope was the report would “open the eyes of government leaders to the many important benefits of designing cities to support active living”. He added: “A city’s ability to compete depends on an active population. The research is clear on this – it shows how an active city can be a low-cost, high-return investment.”