Encouraging cycling is a good thing, argue docs

But exactly what works best and whether the efforts are worth it is harder to measure, says a new study in the British Medical Journal

Medical statisticians at Cambridge’s Clinical Research Collaboration Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) have number-crunched 25 cycling and active travel schemes from seven countries. Disparity in measurement criteria and other downers led the paper authors to conclude that, while cycling has clear health benefits, it’s far less clear how to get people on bikes in the first place.

The CEDAR study, led by Dr David Ogilvie, was set up to find out “what interventions are effective in promoting cycling, the size of the effects of interventions, and evidence of any associated benefits on overall physical activity.”

After analysing the 25 studies, Dr Ogilvie and his team found that promotional activities and improving infrastructure for cycling have the potential to increase cycling by only “modest amounts.”

The CEDAR team want to see more “robust study designs” so that cycling’s health benefits can be rolled out to more people.

And, CEDAR concludes: “Cycling offers a highly efficient substitute for short car trips of up to several miles. As such, promoting cycling could also help to reduce traffic congestion, air pollution, and carbon emissions.”

Studies evaluated included the BikeTexas Safe Routes to School intervention; cycle path connectivity in the Dutch city of Delft; the Danish National Cycle City project which included promotional campaigns and infrastructural measures; and Cycling England’s Cycle Demonstration Towns, created in 2005.

“Most studies…did not report the statistical significance of any net increases in cycling,” found CEDAR.

“Furthermore, in most studies it is unclear whether such increases reflect new trips by infrequent or novice cyclists (which could represent early evidence of potential public health benefits) or additional trips by existing cyclists (which are less likely to contribute significant public health benefits).”

Dr Ogilvie concluded that “significant reservations remain about…sources of bias or confounding in most studies, and, therefore, in the interpretation of their results. These reservations include the reliance of many studies on self reported measures of cycling that are widely accepted but are of unknown validity and reliability.

“Although the evidence does suggest that a variety of approaches have clear potential to promote cycling, from a population perspective, the effect sizes attributable to the interventions studied to date appear relatively modest.”

But this shouldn’t mean such interventions shouldn’t take place:

“There is nevertheless a strong case for promoting cycling on health grounds. At the individual level, cycling to work or school has been shown to be associated with greater cardiorespiratory fitness in adults and children, respectively, and in the Copenhagen City Heart Study cycling to work was associated with a significant reduction in mortality even after adjustment for leisure time physical activity…Two recent studies modelling the health effects of a population shift towards active travel have independently concluded that the health benefits attributable to greater use of physically active modes of transport substantially outweigh any adverse effects related to risk of injury or exposure to inhaled pollutants.

“Promoting cycling is, therefore, a viable approach to improving health.”

Cambridge King's College

The CEDAR team, while based in cycle-friendly Cambridge, with its myriad of bike paths, say studies can’t confirm that the segregation of cyclists from motorised traffic has as big a benefit as many like to claim:

“Evidence from observational studies suggests that changing the built environment has the potential to influence cycling behaviour, but few data from controlled intervention studies are currently available to confirm this. Our review shows that it is unclear whether increases in cycling could be achieved at lower cost by addressing attitudes and perceptions about cycling.”

According to research by Cycling England, the UK’s six Cycle Demonstration Towns saw a 25 prevent increase in the number of trips taken by bike between 2005 and 2009.

In 2005, six places were chosen to be Cycling Demonstration Towns – Aylesbury, Brighton and Hove, Darlington, Derby, Exeter and Lancaster with Morecambe. Bristol was later added as a Cycling Demonstration City.

The Department for Transport provided each town with £5 per head to spend per year, match-funded by local authorities. The average amount spent by other local authorities on cycling has usually been £1 per head.

Aylesbury used the funding to publicise its existing cycle routes with colour coding and signs. Darlington doubled the length of its cycle path network. Brighton and Hove targeted neighbourhoods with personalised travel plans. Lancaster with Morecambe upgraded canal path routes.

Using automatic counters on selected routes, Cycling England said the first three years of the Cycling Demonstration Towns saw the number of trips taken by cyclists in the towns rising by an average of 27 percent.

Phillip Darnton, chairman of Cycling England, has ling maintained that: “The high levels of cycling in many European cities are the result of consistent policy and sustained investment over two decades. If the level of growth seen across the six towns is sustained for 20 years, cycling trips will rise fivefold. This will have a transformational effect on health and make a major contribution to cutting carbon emissions and congestion.”

Funding for the Cycling Demonstration Towns runs out in 2011. Last week, the Coalition Government abolished Cycling England.

Why do motorists get cash handouts but cyclists don't?

While motorists are kept sweet with new road schemes, and £5k e-car grants, Government leaves cyclists in the gutter.

On Wednesday, the Chancellor will unveil the full details of the Comprehensive Spending Review. The Department of Transport is expected to be one of the stingiest departments, hacking away 40 percent of its annual spend.

However, this budget cut isn’t expected to be used for a moratorium on road building. In fact, it’s widely expected that many costly road schemes will be given the green light in a US-style push to spend more on infrastructure in the hope this will stimulate the economy.

For ‘increased infrastructure’ read ‘increased car-dependancy’.

While many billions will be lavished on road “improvements” (double-speak for speed-increasing road widening schemes), a few millions will be put into a Local Sustainable Transport Fund: bikes will have to tough it out with buses to get funding.

Motorists, on the other hand, can now speed more thanks to the “end of the war on the motorist”; and can look forward to juicy grants to put yet more space-hungry motorised vehicles on the already congested roads.

When the recession started, motorists were encouraged to upgrade their cars with the provision of cash handouts in the shape of scrappage scheme grants. In the future, a family wanting to add an ‘eco’ car to their multi-car fleet can get a whopping £5000 grant to buy an electric car.

While bicycles are the epitome of low-carbon transport, cyclists have not been encouraged with bike scrappage schemes and there are no Government bike-buying grants.

Instead, the UK Government scrapped Cycling England, and replaced it with…

…nothing.

Per year, Cycling England cost £200,000 to run and was responsible for sending £60m of DfT funds to local authorities over two years.

As the M6 road widening project is weighing in at £1000 an inch, the running of Cycling England can be estimated to have cost about five metres of motorway per year. Repeat: five metres.

But it’s politically easy to take cash away from cycling: cyclists don’t tend to blockade motorways.

Norman baker

And despite saying that cycling was so important it was mentioned in the Coalition Agreement, the transport minister wheeled out for cycling events is now chumming up with “Britain’s No 1 Motoring Writer”, Quentin Willson.

In yesterday’s Sunday Mirror, Willson said:

“I met Norman Baker, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, and I have to say he was by far the most motorist-friendly Transport Minister I’ve come across.

“He told me we’re not going to see any more congestion charging, that the trains aren’t a viable option for most people, that he was unimpressed by the effects of speed cameras and that governments are daft to try to force people out of cars.”

Now, some politicians are known for saying whatever the person in front of them wants to hear so Willson would be unwise to think Baker is a true petrolhead, but for Baker to even breathe such sentiments, and to a journalist with a motoring column, is a kick in the teeth for cyclists. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Why do motorists get cash handouts but cyclists don’t?

While motorists are kept sweet with new road schemes, and £5k e-car grants, Government leaves cyclists in the gutter.

On Wednesday, the Chancellor will unveil the full details of the Comprehensive Spending Review. The Department of Transport is expected to be one of the stingiest departments, hacking away 40 percent of its annual spend.

However, this budget cut isn’t expected to be used for a moratorium on road building. In fact, it’s widely expected that many costly road schemes will be given the green light in a US-style push to spend more on infrastructure in the hope this will stimulate the economy.

For ‘increased infrastructure’ read ‘increased car-dependancy’.

While many billions will be lavished on road “improvements” (double-speak for speed-increasing road widening schemes), a few millions will be put into a Local Sustainable Transport Fund: bikes will have to tough it out with buses to get funding.

Motorists, on the other hand, can now speed more thanks to the “end of the war on the motorist”; and can look forward to juicy grants to put yet more space-hungry motorised vehicles on the already congested roads.

When the recession started, motorists were encouraged to upgrade their cars with the provision of cash handouts in the shape of scrappage scheme grants. In the future, a family wanting to add an ‘eco’ car to their multi-car fleet can get a whopping £5000 grant to buy an electric car.

While bicycles are the epitome of low-carbon transport, cyclists have not been encouraged with bike scrappage schemes and there are no Government bike-buying grants.

Instead, the UK Government scrapped Cycling England, and replaced it with…

…nothing.

Per year, Cycling England cost £200,000 to run and was responsible for sending £60m of DfT funds to local authorities over two years.

As the M6 road widening project is weighing in at £1000 an inch, the running of Cycling England can be estimated to have cost about five metres of motorway per year. Repeat: five metres.

But it’s politically easy to take cash away from cycling: cyclists don’t tend to blockade motorways.

Norman baker

And despite saying that cycling was so important it was mentioned in the Coalition Agreement, the transport minister wheeled out for cycling events is now chumming up with “Britain’s No 1 Motoring Writer”, Quentin Willson.

In yesterday’s Sunday Mirror, Willson said:

“I met Norman Baker, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, and I have to say he was by far the most motorist-friendly Transport Minister I’ve come across.

“He told me we’re not going to see any more congestion charging, that the trains aren’t a viable option for most people, that he was unimpressed by the effects of speed cameras and that governments are daft to try to force people out of cars.”

Now, some politicians are known for saying whatever the person in front of them wants to hear so Willson would be unwise to think Baker is a true petrolhead, but for Baker to even breathe such sentiments, and to a journalist with a motoring column, is a kick in the teeth for cyclists. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

London's first Cycle Superhighways lead to cycling surge

cyclesuperhighways-logo

According to Transport for London, the Barclays-sponsored Cycle Superhighways are leading to increased levels of cycling.

Two pilot routes were opened in July, Barking to Tower Gateway, and Merton to the City.

TfL has yet to release definitive statistics but said that early estimates show there has been an overall 25 percent increase in cycling along the distinctively blue routes, with some sections of the Merton to City route showing increases of 90 percent.

Ten more Cycle Superhighways are due to up and running by 2015.

London’s first Cycle Superhighways lead to cycling surge

cyclesuperhighways-logo

According to Transport for London, the Barclays-sponsored Cycle Superhighways are leading to increased levels of cycling.

Two pilot routes were opened in July, Barking to Tower Gateway, and Merton to the City.

TfL has yet to release definitive statistics but said that early estimates show there has been an overall 25 percent increase in cycling along the distinctively blue routes, with some sections of the Merton to City route showing increases of 90 percent.

Ten more Cycle Superhighways are due to up and running by 2015.