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If I read your last link right, the money saved is from air pollution -- not obesity.

The original report: http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info%3Adoi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.1103440

Their assumptions are way too optimistic; elminate all short trips by car. And given that huge reduction, 3.8 billion in savings is tiny -- althought it just some upper midwestern cities.

If cycling can be part of a lifestyle change that results in increased exercise and better nutrition, then it could save far more than $3.8 billion a year. Estimates vary as to how much the U.S. spends on avoidable medical costs (and reduced productivity) because of sedentary behavior and poor nutrition (and smoking), but some sources list numbers like $140 billion a year.

I actually think that number is low. Other sources say that someone who leads an unhealthy lifestyle and ends up obese has double the annual health costs of someone who exercises regularly and eats a healthy diet. The total U.S. health bill is somewhere around $1 trillion. Seems like there's a lot more than $140 billion being wasted there.

So even if not all car trips are eliminated, there is a lot of money that can be saved from the national medical bill. Gov't programs are not sustainable with the current culture of inactivity and bad nutrition. And private insurance rates keep going up as well because of ongoing large increases in medical costs.

There are some steps being taken to increase premiums on people who don't take care of themselves. That makes sense to me. If someone voluntarily leads a lifestyle that results in thousands or tens of thousands of extra dollars spent on medical costs, why should others subsidize that lifestyle?

That's the stick. It's much nicer to use the carrot of exercise and cycling, which most people find to be enjoyable (as long as the infrastructure is in place to ride safely).

From Charlie's link to the abstract:

Across the study region of approximately 31.3 million people and 37,000 total square miles, mortality would decline by approximately 1,100 deaths/year (95% CI: 856 – 1,346) due to improved air quality and increased exercise. Making 50% of short trips by bicycle would yield savings of approximately $3.8 billion/year from avoided mortality and reduced health care costs (95% CI: $2.7 – $5.0 billion). We estimate that the combined benefits of improved air quality and physical fitness would exceed $7 billion/year

I think their estimation is a $7 billion/year savings when 50%, not all, of short auto trips are eliminated. And this is just for an area covering 31 million people in the mid-west. If you extrapolated it country wide AND included the dirtier costal cities I think it would make a very big contribution to health.

I am truly puzzled how we've come to accept an environment where the very act of breathing can be considered a health risk. Ah breathing - not optional.

And if you think the rich care equally about the air cause we all have to breath the same stuff then see this story about China where the privileged have even bought themselves an out from that.

@jeffB; I hear you, but there is no place in the US with air like China.

PM 2.5 is bad in California, but that is as much a funciton of geography and climate as auto use. Other bad places in the US are things with heavy industries.

I'd rather see money being used to get diesel trucks and buses -- and old polluting cabs -- off the roads.

The links is very confusing; I agree with your reading of $7B. But let's also be honest: obesity is caused by what you eat, not your exercise

Weak models = weak results.

charlie, obesity is caused by what you eat AND exercise AND genetics. Don't you ever watch the Biggest Loser. They don't just have them change their diet.

N= 1: I eat the same stuff as before, except in larger quantities since I started riding to work. But I've lost 20 pounds. But hmmm..

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