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


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.

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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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Correspondence to Felipe Montes.

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Montes, F., Sarmiento, O.L., Zarama, R. et al. Do Health Benefits Outweigh the Costs of Mass Recreational Programs? An Economic Analysis of Four Ciclovía Programs. J Urban Health 89, 153–170 (2012).

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