Health Economic Assessment Tool (HEAT)

The HEAT tool calculates cycling’s benefits to society and shows that cycling reduces mortality. Calculating the financial benefits of cycling to a community is a complex task. But it’s made easy by the HEAT online calculator of health benefits from cycling, developed by the WHO. Austria is already saving more than €1,200 per person every year thanks to cycling.

The city of Vienna is one of Europe’s biggest capitals. But it isn’t a capital of cycling yet, rather a rising cycling city. People on bicycles made up 6,3% of the modal share in Vienna in 2012. The City of Vienna has ambitious plans to support urban cycling and to increase the modal share of cycling to 10% by 2015. But how will the expected rise in urban cycling in Vienna benefit the city and its population?


Thanks to a tool called HEAT (Health Economic Assessment Tool) for cycling, decision makers in Vienna can now be certain that they are on the right track. The tool is able to quantify the economical benefit of cycling, producing numbers for advocates, politicians and researchers to argue in favour of supporting urban cycling.

HEAT is an online tool developed by the International Health Organization (WHO). City planners, bicycle advocates or health officials can feed it with statistical data from their community.
HEAT then submits the answer to one question: “If X people cycle for Y minutes on most days, what is the economic value of the health benefits that result from the reduction in mortality due to their physical activity?”
In short, HEAT translates the health benefits and regular physical activity that cycling generates into hard cash – in a time of shrinking budgets and growing spending on health issues, there’s no stronger argument for politicians. Vienna’s city planners are ready to hear it. Klima:aktiv, the Austrian Climate Initiative -and a partner of Velo-city 2013 – recently published HEAT result on an Austria-wide scale.

Every year Austria saves € 405 million through cycling!

For Austria as a country, the HEAT calculation shows a financial gain of € 405 million from cycling every year, based on the country’s current modal share of about 5%. For the country’s population of 8.2 million, this means € 1,253 per capita saved only through cycling. The HEAT tool estimates an average of 412 saved lives per year at 5% cycling modal share. If Austria manages to double the modal share of cycling and attain 10%, the gains will double as well, equalling € 810 million of health economical benefit per year.

Such quantified cycling benefits in mind do give a beneficial outlook into the future of everyday cycling in Austria. The positive arguments calculated with the HEAT tool fit well with the current increase of cycling in Austria.
As VCÖ recently reported, the number of Austrian riding bikes increased by 800,000 within the last five years. Now, every third Austria can be called an everyday (urban) cyclist, riding every day or several times a week. Two-thirds of the Austrian population use the bicycle from day-to-day. Only one third of Austrians never touches foot on a pedal.
In Vienna 56 % of the population use the bicycle (34 % in 2007) as a means of transport and 19 % of Vienna’s population cycles every day or several times a week (13 % in 2007). So Vienna is well on the way but there are still a few people to be convinced that they shouldn’t wait to cycle more. According to the OECD, if you are cycling at least three hours a week (like the Danish population does on average), your mortality rate is 28% lower than the mortality rate of people who do not cycle to work. In a statistical sense, you are 28% less likely to die if you cycle regularly.

The health benefits and financial savings are moreover compounded by the well-known reductions in congestion, noise and environmental pollution ensured by cycling. And, of course, less greenhouse gas emissions.

During Velo-city 2013 the HEAT tool will be theme of several workshops, lectures and podium discussions. If you are interested in learning more about the HEAT tool, you should not miss the following events:

HEAT for Cycling symposium
On 11 June 2013, a podium discussion chaired by Velo-city 2013 speaker Francesca Racioppi (WHO) will focus on “Health Benefits and Cycling Economy” and feature a lecture specific to the HEAT tool: “Economic quantification of the health benefits of cycling: can it support changes in policy and practice? A review of experiences using the WHO Health Economic Assessment Tool (HEAT)” by Christian Schweitzer (WHO, Switzerland), Nick Cavill (Cavill Associates) and Robert Thaler (Federal Ministry of Environment, Austria).

HEAT for Cycling training
On 11 June 2013, 11.00 AM, a hands-on training session with some of the experts involved in the elaboration of the tool will also be organised. This training is open to all Velo-city 2013 participants but, the training not being formally part of Velo-city 2013, would-be participants need to register here.

Velo-city 2013 Vienna | Cycling Stories
Karsten Marhold
European Cyclists’ Federation
Florian Lorenz
Velo-city 2013 Communications Team