link to the german version

from Johannes Schuermann

Traffic causes costs. And not only in the form of planning, infrastructure and maintenance, but also by influencing people and the environment. Costs that society as a whole has to bear. Each and every one of us. Costs caused by accidents, air pollution, noise pollution and the consequences of climate change. But how high are these external costs in the city of Munich?

A calculation for Munich now shows that each trip travelled by car costs society 36 ct, by bicycle 10.5 ct, by public transport 4.4 ct and on foot 2.5 ct (see diagram External Kosten pro Weg).

The high cost of cycling is purely due to road traffic accidents involving personal injury in which cyclists are the cause of accidents. In contrast to motorised traffic accidents, cyclists are usually injured themselves. We think: This figure is clearly too high and shows the urgent need for action to make the cycling infrastructure in Munich safer (see diagram Unfallkosten).

The external cost per trip caused by car traffic is not only many times higher than by bicycle, but the implications are also much more far-reaching. In addition to accident costs, they also include costs caused by air pollution, noise pollution and consequential climate costs (see diagram Gegenüberstellung Kosten und Nutzen (EN: comparing cost and benefit)). All residents of Munich are affected by this, and many people far beyond the city limits are in particular affected by the climate impact.


Cycle and pedestrian traffic, i.e. active means of transport, are not only among the modes of transport that, in addition to public transport, cause the lowest social costs , but they also generate a high benefit that far exceeds the costs (see diagram Gegenüberstellung Kosten und Nutzen). Physical activity has many health benefits and leads to a reduced mortality rate. This is desirable not only for each individual cyclist and pedestrian, but also for society and thus for the economy as a whole.

In Munich, costs of € 5.10 and € 6.30 are saved every hour by bike and on foot respectively.

Thank you dear cyclists and pedestrians!


ooking at the totality of external cost, one can see at first glance: A large part of the external cost is caused by car traffic. If all these effects are taken into account, one can see: from an economic point of view, foot and cycle traffic should be promoted extensively. Active transport has low external costs and an extremely high external benefit. Public transport is the best alternative to non-motorised individual transport, since the external cost per route (not yet included) is lower than for cycling, but the cost for infrastructure can be assumed to be much higher from a business point of view.

When more and more motorists switch to active and public transport, all residents will benefit! External cost woud decrease, benefits would increase. That’s why we are committed to strengthening the cycling infrastructure in Munich!

The detailed results of the analysis of the external cost of the different modes of transport in the City of Munich are presented in the following table. Unless otherwise stated, they refer to one year. The calculation is based on figures from the City of Munich and cost rates from scientific literature.

Background for calculation: 

The calculation is based on the IT-supported tool developed under Prof. Dr.-Ing. Carsten Sommer at the University of Kassel and funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure NRVP 2020 – Welche Kosten verursachen verschiedene Verkehrsmittel wirklich?
For all interested parties there is a detailed list of all data sources and assumptions as well as interpretation aids for the individual characteristic values for Munich (only available in German):
Datenquellen, Annahmen, Hintergründe_20190227.pdf
A calculation based on the same tool was also carried out for the cities of Kassel, Bremen and Kiel.