Valuing Rural Cycleways and Footpaths

Valuing Rural Cycleways and Footpaths


J Laird, University of Leeds, UK; M Page, Independant Consultant; S Shen, University of Westminster, UK


New evidence on the demand for and the value of rural cycleways and footpaths is presented. It differs from previous studies due to the rural context. The practical consequences of the work are demonstrated.


Walking and cycling are efficient modes of transport for short trips which cause little danger and inconvenience to others. European national transport strategies increasingly recognise the need to increase the amount walking and cycling as part of a sustainable land use and transport solution. Historically, however, it has been difficult to include the benefits of walking and cycling infrastructure in an economic appraisal due to a lack of evidence on their value. Furthermore there is often a pre-conceived idea amongst highway design engineers that there is little value in including facilities for pedestrians and cyclists particularly in rural areas.

This paper presents new evidence on the value of cycleways and footpaths in a rural environment. It is based on a study of walking and cycling behaviour in three areas of Ireland. The purpose of the study was to inform Ireland's National Roads Authority on the merits of including provisions for pedestrians and cyclists in any future upgrade of the National Secondary Road network. Ireland's national secondary network consists of 2,700 km of primarily rural single carriageway "roads". These roads complement the national primary routes (e.g. the motorways). Very little investment has been put into the network and consequently large scale investment is planned. Being an historic rural inter-urban road network, no dedicated facilities for pedestrians and cyclists currently exist. A key question that has been posed is whether such facilities should be included in any future upgrade.

A fundamental requirement in valuing the benefits of facilities for pedestrians and cyclists is an understanding of the demand for such facilities. Aggregate demand models use data about a population or the characteristics of an area. Such models are useful for calculating the potential of (say) cycling or the effect of a widespread policy change, but they are less useful for predicting the impact of a particular piece of infrastructure because of their aggregate nature. Disaggregate models are based upon data about the decisions of individuals or households and can therefore include much more detailed information about the factors which influence the decision whether to walk or cycle. There have been a number of studies over the years which have applied these sorts of models to cycling, but there are far fewer studies of walking. Additionally these models are not pertinent to the rural context where distances to settlements can be large and a significant barrier to the uptake of walking or cycling.

Monetary valuations are also a fundamental part of an economic appraisal. For walking and cycling this has led to the development of the concept of "journey ambience". Journey ambience is a measure of the improved environment and reduction in feelings of danger that dedicated facilities provide. It is taken to be the willingness to pay for the facility compared to a situation without the facility. Some valuations for journey ambience exist, though the relevance of these data to the rural context is limited. Existing studies have concentrated on urban areas, or covered restricted journey purposes, typically commuting or have been confined to cycle facilities designed for a particular type of use, for instance leisure trips (e.g. on country trails). In addition, there is very little data about the value a segregated facility holds for pedestrians.

The paper gives an account of the implementation and results from a household and user survey carried out in rural Ireland in three locations. The survey data was used to estimate a disaggregate demand model for a segregated pedestrian and cyclist facility and the willingness to pay for such a facility. The work is different from previous studies in that it:
-was conducted in a rural situation;
-provides a model which can be used to predict demand based upon simple household characteristics derived from census and GIS data;
- covers walking as well as cycling (and for summer and winter); and
- provides estimates of willingness to pay by users of shared use cycle and walking facilities.

The paper will conclude by demonstrating the relevance of this research to a rural sustainable transport policy agenda with an illustration of its impact on a national investment programme to upgrade Ireland's national secondary road network. The principal result is that almost all of the proposed upgrades (approximately 900km of upgrades) will include segregated facilities for pedestrians and cyclists. This is in direct contrast to the conventional view regarding the merits of such rural infrastructure and the design of rural road schemes.


Association for European Transport