STUDY: Gladsaxe Municipality has saved expenses of around half a billion DKK on healthcare since 1986. Traffic reorganization has resulted in fewer accidents and more bicycle lanes have resulted in more people cycling. Together this has meant great reductions in healthcare expenses.
The purpose of Gladsaxe Municipality, member of the Cycling Embassy of Denmark, long-term work on speed reductions, traffic safety and the construction of bicycle lanes has been to create safe roads for the citizens of the municipality.
Today, 94 per cent of the municipality’s roads are either 40 or 30 km/h low-speed zones or have bicycle lanes.
Fewer accidents and healthier citizens
At the same time, new calculations show that Gladsaxe Municipality has avoided an expenditure of 490 million DKK on healthcare in the period 1986-2014 – compared to this, the municipality’s investments in traffic reorganization, bicycle safety etc. has been around 180 million DKK in 2016 prices.
The economic gain has been around 310 million kroner – in part due to savings on healthcare and paid sick days compared to 1986. This means that an expenditure in excess of 10 million DKK has been avoided annually.
The reason is that there has been a decline in the number of injuries and in healthcare expenses, while increased bicycle traffic means better public health. Overall, in the period from 1986, 4,500 accidents which would have resulted in treatment in emergency rooms and hospitals have been avoided. Bicycle traffic has increased approximately 15 per cent from 2000.
Background and conditions
In 1986 the police registered 124 injuries on the roads of Gladsaxe Municipality, while i 2014 the number was 8 injuries. That is a decline of 94 per cent when it comes to injuries registered by the police in this period.
But since the police register fewer and fewer accidents, Gladsaxe Municipality has had its numbers critically evaluated by the Traffic Research Group at Aalborg University who have corrrected the numbers incorporating the missing registrations so that they correspond with the numbers in the hospitals.
Whereas in 1986 the police registered around 32 per cent of all injuries compared to the numbers at the hospitals, in 2014 the police registered only 8 per cent of all injuries according to national statistics.
If this is taken into account, an evaluation of injuries on the municipal roads of Gladsaxe shows that there were approximately 386 injuries in 1986 and 106 injuries in 2014.
If the annual variations in the corrected and registered number of accidents are equalized, the number of injuries on municipal roads in Gladsaxe has decreased by approximately 55 per cent from 1986 to 2014.
Similarly, the injuries on municipal roads in the police district of Copenhagen Vestegn has fallen by 22 per cent, while the corresponding corrected numbers for municipal roads nationwide has not decreased. The latter is probably due to the fact that traffic has increased much more nationally than within city areas.
Data from the nationwide register of patients has been treated by Aalborg University and shows a decrease in the number of Gladsaxe citizens getting injured in traffic – 43 per cent from 1995 to 2014. In particular, the number of cyclists getting injured has decreased considerably. Regardless of the fact that the citizens of Gladsaxe may be in accidents anywhere, this data supports the tendency of a large decrease on roads in Gladsaxe.
Similarly, a study by Via Trafik shows a decrease of 40 per cent in accidents involving cyclists resulting in injuries on the roads where the municipality has established bicycle lanes since 1990. The decrease has been adjusted taking the development in a large control group consisting of the police districts Copenhagen, Copenhagen Vestegn and Northern Zealand into consideration.
The decrease in the number of injuries is the result of municipal traffic reorganization, the rebuilding of roads and speed reduction, better safety equipment and brakes in cars, the increased use of bicycle helmets and changed norms in connection with drunk driving. Since the decrease in Gladsaxe is large in comparison to other places, the decrease can very probably be credited to the efforts of the municipality.
According to studies and estimates made by COWI, the direct municipal cost following an injury registered in an emergency room is around 130,000 DKK. Of this, 100,000 DKK is direct municipal expenses divided between paid sick days, hospital treatment and care.
Similarly, there is a direct municipal profit of 0.65 DKK per bicycle kilometre due to healthcare savings. The societal rewards when it comes to the reduction of accidents and an increase in bicycling is overall much larger.
When using the 1986 records with a correction for the effect of an increase in the car traffic in Gladsaxe of 1 per cent per year, the estimate shows that appproximately 4,500 injuries have been avoided in Gladsaxe overall from 1986 to 2014.
Economically, this corresponds to municipal healthcare expenses of around 455 million DKK. The increase in bicycle traffic of around 15 per cent from 2000 to 2014 has a value of around 35 million DKK in municipal healthcare savings.
Thus, apart from many other good reasons, from an municipality’s economical point of view it pays to invest in traffic safety and in increasing cycling.