Thursday, October 24, 2013

In Which Those Crazy Danes Save Money By Biking

I read an article today on the Huffington Post site that listed Denmark as the world’s “happiest” country. It’s based on a study by some Canadian economists, so you know it’s true.

The reasons include:
  • Denmark is full of Danes. Extrapolating a little from the article, they seem to care about each other, help each other and be nice to each other. The zombie apocalypse won’t start in Copenhagen.
  • Danes are liberals. OK, the article doesn’t say that either, but it does note that in Denmark, maternity leave is 52 weeks, national health services are considered a civil right and gender equity is ingrained in the culture. That sure doesn’t sound like Ted Cruz’s brand of politics. Take that, TEA Party. You make America sad.
  • Last, and certainly not least (and, surely, not a surprise considering where you found this well-reasoned and thoughtful essay), what makes Danes happy is: Bicycles!
City bicycles in Copenhagen. Yes, I want happy face spoke covers now for Francis, too. Those are pretty scary. Photo from Wikimedia Commons, by Ehedaya.

In Copenhagen, fully half the trips its citizens take anywhere are on two wheels. Besides making Danes happier and healthier, the article has this startling note: The fact that Danes bike so much saves, the article says, the Danish government a whole pile of krone. The article quotes its University of British Columbia economics study source:

“Researchers found that for every kilometer traveled by bike instead of by car, taxpayers saved 7.8 cents (DKK 0.45) in avoided air pollution, accidents, congestion, noise and wear and tear on infrastructure. Cyclists in Copenhagen cover an estimated 1.2 million kilometers each day –- saving the city a little over $34 million each year.”

In the good old US of A, one “controversy” about biking is the occasional snide comment one reads or hears about how car drivers pay taxes for those roads, while those in the biker community are mooching or cheating by riding bikes. I’ve always felt that argument was bogus, partly because a bike is so light compared to a car that the bike does no discernible damage to a paved road at all, and partly because it ignores all kinds of social good that biking promotes.

And there you have it in dollars, cents and krone. The economists who penned those words weren’t even concerned with biking per se—they were studying six measures of happiness in societies—so the line about saving money by biking isn’t from some fringe, pro-biking group.

So those are the facts, car drivers. You shouldn’t wag your finger at me as you drive by. Hold out some cash.

You should tip me. (Pay me money, I mean, don’t invert my position). I’m saving you, as a taxpayer, some real money.

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