Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 89, Issue 1, pp 153–170 | Cite as

Do Health Benefits Outweigh the Costs of Mass Recreational Programs? An Economic Analysis of Four Ciclovía Programs

  • Felipe Montes
  • Olga L. Sarmiento
  • Roberto Zarama
  • Michael Pratt
  • Guijing Wang
  • Enrique Jacoby
  • Thomas L. Schmid
  • Mauricio Ramos
  • Oscar Ruiz
  • Olga Vargas
  • Gabriel Michel
  • Susan G. Zieff
  • Juan Alejandro Valdivia
  • Nick Cavill
  • Sonja Kahlmeier


One promising public health intervention for promoting physical activity is the Ciclovía program. The Ciclovía is a regular multisectorial community-based program in which streets are temporarily closed for motorized transport, allowing exclusive access to individuals for recreational activities and physical activity. The objective of this study was to conduct an analysis of the cost–benefit ratios of physical activity of the Ciclovía programs of Bogotá and Medellín in Colombia, Guadalajara in México, and San Francisco in the USA. The data of the four programs were obtained from program directors and local surveys. The annual cost per capita of the programs was: US $6.0 for Bogotá, US $23.4 for Medellín, US $6.5 for Guadalajara, and US $70.5 for San Francisco. The cost–benefit ratio for health benefit from physical activity was 3.23–4.26 for Bogotá, 1.83 for Medellín, 1.02–1.23 for Guadalajara, and 2.32 for San Francisco. For the program of Bogotá, the cost–benefit ratio was more sensitive to the prevalence of physically active bicyclists; for Guadalajara, the cost–benefit ratio was more sensitive to user costs; and for the programs of Medellín and San Francisco, the cost–benefit ratios were more sensitive to operational costs. From a public health perspective for promoting physical activity, these Ciclovía programs are cost beneficial.


Ciclovía program Complex system Urban organization Physical activity Economic assessment Cost–benefit ratio Nonmotorized transport Human behavior Dynamics of large cities 



The authors of the research would like to acknowledge the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Basic and Applied Complexity, CeiBA (Bogotá, Colombia), Colciencias grant 519 2010, and the grant from sustainable mobility research projects by La Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. We also would like to acknowledge Pablo Lemoine and Gina Rojas from El Centro Nacional de Consultoria (Bogotá, Colombia); Rocío Gámez of the IDRD of Bogotá; Claudia Arango, Claudia Garzón, Fabián Higuita, and Andrés Felipe García of the INDER of Medellín, the Municipal Council of Sports of Guadalajara, Livable City of San Francisco for providing the data of the Ciclovía programs; and Claudia Guedes, Mi-Sook Kim, Patrick Tierney, and Jackson Wilson of the Active Living Across the Lifespan Research Group of San Francisco State University, California, for the data collection. We would like to thank Maria Luis Latorre, Juan Carlos Mendieta, and Candace Rutt who provided valuable comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Pan American Health Organization.


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Felipe Montes
    • 1
  • Olga L. Sarmiento
    • 2
  • Roberto Zarama
    • 1
  • Michael Pratt
    • 3
  • Guijing Wang
    • 4
  • Enrique Jacoby
    • 5
  • Thomas L. Schmid
    • 3
  • Mauricio Ramos
    • 5
  • Oscar Ruiz
    • 6
  • Olga Vargas
    • 7
  • Gabriel Michel
    • 8
  • Susan G. Zieff
    • 9
  • Juan Alejandro Valdivia
    • 10
  • Nick Cavill
    • 11
  • Sonja Kahlmeier
    • 12
  1. 1.Department of Industrial Engineering, Faculty of EngineeringUniversidad de los Andes, CeiBA Complex systems Research CenterBogotáColombia
  2. 2.Department of Public Health, School of MedicineUniversidad de los AndesBogotáColombia
  3. 3.National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health PromotionCenters for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Division for Heart Disease and Stroke PreventionNational Center of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDCAtlantaUSA
  5. 5.Healthy Eating and Active Living, Noncommunicable Disease Unit, DPC/NCPan American/World Health Organization WashingtonUnited States
  6. 6.Instituto Distrital para la Recreación y el Deporte (IDRD)BogotáColombia
  7. 7.Instituto de Recreación y Deporte (INDER)UMA. (Planeación)MedellínColombia
  8. 8.Consejo Municipal del Deporte de Guadalajara, Vía RecreActiva, GuadalajaraJaliscoMéxico
  9. 9.Active Living Across the Lifespan Research Group, Department of KinesiologySan Francisco State UniversitySan FranciscoUSA
  10. 10.Departamento de Física, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de ChileSantiagoChile
  11. 11.Cavill Associates, Mercury OfficesStockport CheshireUK
  12. 12.Physical Activity and Health UnitInstitute of Social and Preventive Medicine of the University of ZurichZürichSwitzerland

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