“Active” transport, on foot or by bike, good for the planet, health and the economy

Ten thousand steps and more. On the one hand, an urgent need to act to limit global warming. On the other hand, there is an equally crucial urgency to fight against the lack of physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle, scourges of public health and an economic abyss. Recently, the social cost of physical inactivity was assessed at 140 billion euros annually in France by France Strategy, in connection with the 38,000 premature deaths and 62,000 cases of pathologies it causes.

Good news, these two fights can be converging. The development of so-called “active” transport, as foreseen in the negaWatt energy transition scenario, could also generate substantial benefits in terms of health and finances, according to a study published this summer in theInternational Journal of Public Health (IJPH).

From 2045, thanks to a relatively modest practice of walking and cycling, nearly 10,000 premature deaths could be avoided each year in our country – i.e. a gain in life expectancy of three months –, with 34 billion euros in savings, estimate Kévin Jean, lecturer in epidemiology at the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts, and economist Philippe Quirion, research director at the CNRS, who coordinated this work. By 2030, the benefits would already be significant, with 5,000 premature deaths prevented, and 15 billion euros in savings, the social cost of a year of life lost being estimated at 139,000 euros.

These results will be presented on September 29 during a webinar organized by the International Center for Research on Environment and Development (Cired).

A very low level of cycling practice

The association of independent experts négaWatt proposes an energy transition scenario making it possible to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 in France. Updated several times since 2003, the latest version dating from this year, it relies in particular on sobriety and a massive deployment of renewable energies, with concrete recommendations in each area of ​​activity. On the transport side, an activity that contributes the most to greenhouse gas emissions in France (around 30%), negaWatt relies, among other things, on increasing use of public transport and active mobility. With an increase of 11% by 2050 in the number of kilometers traveled on foot per individual (less than 6 per week today), and of 612% for those traveled by bicycle, traditional or electric. This increase in the use of the bicycle could seem enormous, but is explained by a current level of very low practice in France: 2.4 km/person per week in 2021. “The 17.1 km/inhabitant per week in 2050 predicted by négaWatt correspond to one hour of weekly cycling, i.e. the current level in the Netherlands, it is quite accessible”says Kevin Jean.

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