Profit for the National Economy

Transport development has long been connected to economic development. Industrialization and the establishment of a capitalist mode of production led to a significant division of labor and associated spatial differentiation. The resulting spatial distances – for example between producers and customers, or even within individual steps of a value chain – have become extreme (1). Spaces for social interaction have likewise become increasingly separated. Hence, to ensure the social inclusion of all urban residents, transport between people’s places of residence, work, consumption and recreation need to be better connected by an efficient traffic and transportation system. Transport (The concepts of transport and mobility need to be approached differently; whereas mobility describes the possibility of a potential change in location, transport is the actual movement (2) is, in addition to housing, work and recreation, one of the four basic functions of cities and must be understood as a mechanism for social integration.

“Today, following the progressive division of labor and differentiation between the economy and society witnessed over the past 150 years, it is clear that an effectively functioning transportation system is the central precondition for modern economic and social forms.” (3)

An efficient transport system designed to meet the diverse mobility needs of people and a labor-based economy is a prerequisite for the proper functioning of the national economy. In recent decades, we have witnessed high growth in traffic performance, both in terms of passenger and commercial traffic. The underlying paradigm of ‘faster, further, more’ is not, however, singularly productive for our economic development – it can also be destructive. The negative costs of the over-industrialisation of transport are not internalized in an economic calculation, but rather outsourced to our own society or other societies (see Figure).

Particularly in cities where the majority of trips are short, the bike is the best and most efficient means of transport. In Berlin, for instance, the average trip length is 6.0 km (SrV 2013 (4). Every kilometer traveled by bike instead of inside a car saves both the user and society money. Bicycles require less infrastructure than individual motorized transport, they are energy-efficient, occupy less space and can transport the same number of people over a given route faster and more cost-effectively (Quelle 13). Considering the lower investment costs of bicycle transport systems, appropriate cycling policies and high-quality infrastructure could generate tremendous economic savings, provide significant environmental benefits, foster social integration, as well as improve both physical and mental public health.

“The bicycle lifted man’s auto-mobility into a new order, beyond which progress is theoretically not possible. (...) They become masters of their own movements without blocking those of their fellows.” (5)

(1) Link, H. (2011): Verkehr und Wirtschaft. Die volkswirtschaftliche Bedeutung des Verkehrs. In: Schwedes, O.: Verkehrspolitik. Eine interdisziplinäre Einführung. Springer, Wiesbaden. S. 91-114.
(2) Ahrend, C. et al. (2013): Kleiner Begriffskanon der Mobilitätsforschung. IVP-Discussion Paper. Fachgebiet Integrierte Verkehrsplanung. Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin.
(3) Rammler, S. (2001): Mobilität in der Moderne. edition sigma, Berlin. S. 8.
(4) Ahrens, G.-A. (2013): Tabellenbericht zum Forschungsprojekt „Mobilität in Städten – SrV 2013“ Berlin. TU Dresden.
download/SrV_2013 _Berlin_Tabellen.pdf
(5) Illich, I. (1974): Energy and Equity. Harper & Row, New York et al.