The most important process in the development of a Cycle Highway is the trade-off whether or not to investment. Dependent on the country and specific region, the main argument(s) to do so differ. Central in the process is the amount of (potential) cyclists who use the cycle highway. From a political point of view, cycling is not the goal but the means in order to achieve sustainability objectives. Cycling has a positive impact on
- the environment assuming the substitution effect from car-oriented travel behaviour
- improvement of the economical accessibility
- social well-being and liveability of cities
To measure these impacts and the effect of their investment, a monitor and evaluation strategy is needed. By monitoring and evaluating the usage of the cycle highways and their co-benefits, municipalities can thus justify their investments.
To measure the impact, a few things need to be taken into account. First, key is that the region is able to measure the volume in usage of the cycle highway in a structured and reliable way. Several methods might be used for this such as a manual counting or automatic counters for which different systems and devices are available.
Second, additional information is needed to transform the volume/number of cyclists into quantifiable values. Next to the volume, distance, purposes and time of day effects enrich the level of detail and accuracy of the sustainability impact.
Different models and tools already have been developed to calculate these. All tools operate more or less on the same variables, where dependent on the country variables can differ in bandwidths and weight.
For example, the World Health Organisation’s Health Economic Assessment Tool (HEAT) for walking and cycling provides a calculation tool for health benefits (reduced mortality) and CO2 emissions savings.
- Environmental impact: for example the reduction of CO2 emissions, reduced noise pollution, and improvement of the air quality.
- Social well-being and health: people switch their transport mode to a more active mode. Or they use the bike more often due to better cycle infrastructure and cycle connections in the network.
- Economical accessibility: the reduction of car traffic and congestion by stimulating people to take the bicycle or go by foot.
- Wider/indirect economic benefits: well-functioning transport system without congestion and a healthy workforce will benefit the economic growth of the region.