The town of Alkmaar was chosen as a model for the Fietsberaad research. The effect was calculated of a 10 per cent increase in bicycle use over the next ten years, at the expense of car use. That benefits the environment and health, but the most remarkable result is an increase in accessibility of the town centre. The decrease in the number of cars leads to an improved flow on the local thoroughfares, as well as fewer traffic jams on the Alkmaar ring road. Calculations state that the number of hours lost for motorists will fall by 15 per cent. That amounts to approximately 3 to 6 million Euro per year for all Alkmaar motorists. This extreme result is due to the fact that congestion in Alkmaar is scheduled to increase explosively until 2020. The transfer of even a small number of motorists to cycling will therefore have a major impact.
But changing from car to bicycle will provide more social advantages as well. The decrease in car kilometres will reduce noxious emissions by private cars within the built-up area with well over 7 per cent. Even emissions by lorries – the main factor in local air quality – will fall by well over 4 per cent thanks to increased flow. When bicycle use increases by 10 per cent serious noise pollution will fall by over 2 per cent as well.
The contribution to climate policy by increased bicycle use is limited. This is mainly a global problem. But at the individual level the improvement is still substantial. If all inhabitants were to use their bicycles 10 per cent more often instead of their cars, CO2-emissions per household would fall by approximately 3 per cent, which is comparable to replacing 13 light bulbs by low-energy light bulbs.
Cycling is healthy. But an increase in bicycle use of 10 per cent means only a modest contribution to public health. An average of 10 per cent in extra bicycle use (on average 1 minute and 15 seconds a day) simply is not enough to make a difference. To have any effect, policies should specifically target people who currently do not or barely exercise.
A 10 per cent increase in cycling would also not cause an increase in traffic danger, according to the study. Although more bicycle use would lead to more casualties, this would be more or less outweighed by the decrease in car kilometres, since that would reduce the chances for cyclists and pedestrians to be involved in an accident with a car. Overall this results in a tiny decrease in the total number of serious traffic casualties.