BICY at BiciFi: Public Health & the Bicycle
BICY at BiciFi: Public Health & the Bicycle
BICY Project science, health and policy analyst Jason Meggs presented BICY project final results in a special session on public health and bicycle transportation at BiciFi, the enormous Firenze Bike Festival (Florence, Italy, March 2, 2013).

March 2013

A special session on public health and bicycle transportation was convened at BiciFi, the enormous Firenze Bike Festival (Florence, Italy, March 2, 2013).

(Photo by Jason Meggs)

The session was part of a full day of lectures on bicycle policy, including many representatives of municipalities from throughout Italy reporting on the progress in their cities and regions, along with presentations on measures to reduce bicycle theft.

BICY Project's science, health and policy analyst, Jason Meggs, presented BICY project final results regarding the public health benefits of investment in bicycle infrastructure in Central Europe, as an invited speaker. Meggs introduced the analytic framework of the BICY scientific effort, discussed the model which strongly correlates bicycle infrastructure to increased bicycling, and presented results of cost-benefit analyses of a few of the top benefits expected from such investments: prevention of all-cause mortality (using the HEAT tool from WHO Europe) and the reduction of carbon emissions.

"Bicycling can make a substantial improvement in urban carbon emissions. The value of carbon used here is an average between the lowest market-based cost per tonne and the highest tax-based cost proposed for Europe; in fact the true value may be infinite, if runaway climate change takes place; in light of this grave danger, I recommend a negative discount rate be considered as well, when projecting the costs of inaction, to ensure a credible and realistic range of possibilities."

The key factor Meggs emphasized was speed -- not of the bicycle, although he put forth that it is the fastest, most convenient and lowest energy expenditure transport mode for many urban trips -- but the speed of the implementation.

Speed is of the essence, for the benefit of young and old, "whether 8 years or 80 years, everyone should feel free and safe to bicycle to travel in their city," advised Jason Meggs. (Photo by Valentina Barletta)

Rapid implementation is the best investment strategy to reap the benefits of increased bicycling, stated Meggs. Meggs presented the BICY perspective in a mixture of Italian and English to, ensure broadest accessibility of the information.

Cristina Taddei, public health professional at the School of Hygiene and Preventative Medicine, University of Firenze also presented, focusing on the health and sustainability gains of increasing bicycling in Firenze.

Cristina Taddei presented a detailed look at the very real benefits of bicycling in Firenze -- and the costs of not providing for increased bicycling. (Photo by Valentina Barletta.)

Taddei's talk included an overview of the very real impacts of a sedentary lifestyle such as deadly diabetes, and the great turnaround in that costly suffering that is possible when bicycling is adopted as a convenient everyday transportation option.

The trade-off in various Italian cities between bicycling and motor scooters (motorini) were of particular interest to an Italian audience; use of motor scooters is high in Italy, but can be greatly reduced, along with the harmful noise, air pollution and traffic dangers characteristic of mass use of motor scooters, when bicycling increases. Florence (Firenze) currently has a large share of trips by motor scooter (28%, versus only 7% bicycling).

Taddei put forth that, were Firenze to adjust its bicycling travel behavior to mirror that of nearby Ferrara, it would expect to prevent 27 premature mortalities, 89 cases of diabetes, 15 myocardial arrests and 14 strokes -- EACH YEAR! The human costs, let alone the healthcare financial costs, of increasing bicycling must not be ignored.

The moderators were Prof. Giampiero Gallo, an economist and representative of the City of Firenze, and public health professor Guglielmo Bonaccorsi, University of Firenze.

Both Prof. Gallo and Prof. Bonaccorsi gave substantial contributions to the dialogue. The audience was invited to ask questions and discuss as well.

Both public health presentations are available in PDF form for download here (see bottom of page).

TITLE OF SESSION: "Perché in bici? Città, salute e ambiente"


"In bici a Firenze: guadagno in salute e sostenibilità del Sistema Sanitario"; Cristina Taddei, Scuola di Specializzazione in Igiene e Medicina Preventiva, Università di Firenze;


"Fast Track to a Bicycle City in Light of the BICY Project: Infrastructure Investment Strategy and Cost Benefits"; Jason N. Meggs, DICAM - Transport Engineering Group, University of Bologna.

During the day's presentations, an invited speaker from the European Cyclists' Federation, Florian Lorenz, who gave a presentation promoting this year's Velo-City Global conference, to be held June 11-14 in Vienna, Austria. Velo-City is the world's largest bicycle policy conference. This year's theme is "The Sound of Cycling: Urban Cycling Cultures," a nod to Vienna's renowned musical history.

The Bike Fest was a large and diverse event, and those who peeked out of the dark cave of the policy session had many opportunities to learn about bicycling in all its forms. Sculptures, games, books, recreation and advocacy tables, antique bicycles, music, food, and more were available, including participatory events such as a stage powered by a bank of bicycles generating electricity, and stationary bicycles facing videos of fast riding in scenic environs. (See photos below.)

Primary organizers of the day's policy events included FIAB, the Federation of Italian Friends of the Bicycle.

The home page for the Bike Festival is located here:

The program of the Public Health session can be found here:

Photos of the Festival and the Sessions follow:

A large group of public health professionals and the interested public gathered for the talk. (Photo by Jason Meggs.)

Jason Meggs discusses the analytical process of modeling increased bicycling, and calculating the financial benefits of deaths prevented from that new bicycling (Photo by Jason Meggs.)

Jason Meggs discusses legislative and policy solutions to reducing the deadly problem of aggressive driving.(Photo by Jason Meggs.)

Professor Giampiero M. Gallo, with the City of Florence, addresses the crowd regarding the seriousness of the issues facing bicyclists. (Photo by Valentina Barletta)

Pictured left to right: Jason Meggs (University of Bologna), Cristina Taddei (University of Florence), prof. Bonaccorsi (University of Florence), and dott. Giorgio Garofalo (Prevention Department, Local Health Authority of Florence). (Photo by Valentina Barletta)

After the talk, a group of public health professionals try a stationary bicycle facing a movie of fast riding through scenic environments. (Photo by Jason Meggs.)

(Photo by Jason Meggs.)

Bicyclists generated the power for this performance stage. (Photo by Jason Meggs.)

(Photo by Jason Meggs.)

(Photo by Jason Meggs.)

Inside the venues, spatious areas welcomed bicycle riding -- and plenty of photography. (Photo by Jason Meggs.)

(Photo by Jason Meggs.)

(Photo by Jason Meggs.)

(Photo by Jason Meggs.)

Approaching the event from the train station, the massive publicity for the 20,000-participant event couldn't be missed, such as seen on the side of many passing buses. (Photo by Jason Meggs.)

Contact: Jason N. Meggs
Presentation of Jason Meggs
Presentation of Cristina Taddei

BICY Implemented in the Central Europe Programme ( is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).