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The Social Cost of Automobility, Cycling and Walking in the European Union


  • Gössling, Stefan
  • Choi, Andy
  • Dekker, Kaely
  • Metzler, Daniel


Cost-benefit-analyses (CBA) are widely used to assess transport projects. Comparing various CBA frameworks, this paper concludes that the range of parameters considered in EU transport CBA is limited. A comprehensive list of criteria is presented, and unit costs identified. These are used to calculate the external and private cost of automobility, cycling and walking in the European Union. Results suggest that each kilometer driven by car incurs an external cost of €0.11, while cycling and walking represent benefits of €0.18 and €0.37 per kilometer. Extrapolated to the total number of passenger kilometers driven, cycled or walked in the European Union, the cost of automobility is about €500 billion per year. Due to positive health effects, cycling is an external benefit worth €24 billion per year and walking €66 billion per year. CBA frameworks in the EU should be widened to better include the full range of externalities, and, where feasible, be used comparatively to better understand the consequences of different transport investment decisions.

Suggested Citation

  • Gössling, Stefan & Choi, Andy & Dekker, Kaely & Metzler, Daniel, 2019. "The Social Cost of Automobility, Cycling and Walking in the European Union," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 158(C), pages 65-74.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:158:y:2019:i:c:p:65-74
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2018.12.016

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    3. Mouter, Niek & Koster, Paul & Dekker, Thijs, 2021. "Contrasting the recommendations of participatory value evaluation and cost-benefit analysis in the context of urban mobility investments," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 144(C), pages 54-73.
    4. Mohammad Anwar Alattar & Caitlin Cottrill & Mark Beecroft, 2021. "Sources and Applications of Emerging Active Travel Data: A Review of the Literature," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(13), pages 1-17, June.
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    6. Dėdelė, Audrius & Miškinytė, Auksė & Andrušaitytė, Sandra & Nemaniūtė-Gužienė, Jolanta, 2020. "Dependence between travel distance, individual socioeconomic and health-related characteristics, and the choice of the travel mode: a cross-sectional study for Kaunas, Lithuania," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 86(C).
    7. Dugan, Anna & Mayer, Jakob & Thaller, Annina & Bachner, Gabriel & Steininger, Karl W., 2022. "Developing policy packages for low-carbon passenger transport: A mixed methods analysis of trade-offs and synergies," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 193(C).
    8. Michael Hardinghaus & Panagiotis Papantoniou, 2020. "Evaluating Cyclists’ Route Preferences with Respect to Infrastructure," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(8), pages 1-18, April.
    9. Sakari Höysniemi & Arto O. Salonen, 2019. "Towards Carbon-Neutral Mobility in Finland: Mobility and Life Satisfaction in Day-to-Day Life," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 11(19), pages 1-21, September.
    10. Laura Pagani & Demetrio Panarello, 2022. "Evaluation of a program for promoting physical activity and well-being: Friuli Venezia Giulia in Movimento," METRON, Springer;Sapienza Università di Roma, vol. 80(1), pages 97-120, April.
    11. Mário Meireles & Paulo J. G. Ribeiro, 2020. "Digital Platform/Mobile App to Boost Cycling for the Promotion of Sustainable Mobility in Mid-Sized Starter Cycling Cities," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(5), pages 1-27, March.
    12. Patricia Gálvez-Fernández & Palma Chillón & María Jesús Aranda-Balboa & Manuel Herrador-Colmenero, 2022. "Preliminary Results of a Bicycle Training Course on Adults’ Environmental Perceptions and Their Mode of Commuting," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 19(6), pages 1-12, March.
    13. Lisa Kraus & Heike Proff, 2021. "Sustainable Urban Transportation Criteria and Measurement—A Systematic Literature Review," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(13), pages 1-21, June.
    14. Christian Werner & Elisabeth Füssl & Jannik Rieß & Bernd Resch & Florian Kratochwil & Martin Loidl, 2022. "A Framework to Facilitate Advanced Mixed Methods Studies for Investigating Interventions in Road Space for Cycling," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 15(1), pages 1-22, December.
    15. Stefan Gössling & Andreas Humpe & Todd Litman & Daniel Metzler, 2019. "Effects of Perceived Traffic Risks, Noise, and Exhaust Smells on Bicyclist Behaviour: An Economic Evaluation," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 11(2), pages 1-15, January.
    16. Ximena Palma-Leal & Fernando Rodríguez-Rodríguez & Pablo Campos-Garzón & Antonio Castillo-Paredes & Palma Chillón, 2021. "New Self-Report Measures of Commuting Behaviors to University and Their Association with Sociodemographic Characteristics," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 18(23), pages 1-14, November.

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