Hostile cities increase stroke risk, says Sustrans – but cycling is a wonder-drug

The Stroke Association has stated that in England in 2014 there were 6,221 hospital admissions for men aged 40-54 stuffing from strokes – a rise of 1,961 on 14 years earlier.

Experts said unhealthy lifestyles were partly to blame for the rise, though the growing population and changes to hospital practice also played a part.

Philip Insall, Director of Health for Sustrans, said:

“Our cities have evolved into places that are hostile to walking and cycling; but being physically active every day is a wonder drug that can’t be ignored.

“Since the 1960s, levels of physical activity in the UK dropped by a fifth and if current trends continue, will reduce by more than a third by 2030. As a direct result more and more people are suffering from strokes, heart disease, diabetes and many forms of cancer.’

“The UK chief medical officers have stressed that physical activity as part of normal daily routine, such as from walking and cycling regular short journeys, is the best and easiest way to reduce those disease risks.’

“So it is of paramount importance that the incoming administration should invest in helping people get active by walking and cycling for their everyday short journeys.”

Workplaces should subsidise cycling to work, says business law consultancy

Companies should help their desk-based staff with discounted gym memberships and cycle to work schemes, says Protecting.co.uk, a business law consultancy.

Health risks to desk-bound staff are becoming a health and safety issue, with sitting doing nothing being a clear danger, warns Protecting’s spokesperson Mark Hall.

“People who don’t move from their desks all day might not know the risks their letting themselves in for.

“A sedentary lifestyle can lead to all sorts of problems, not least through lack of fitness and the perils of deep vein thrombosis through long periods of inactivity.”

Annette, who works for a law firm, put on a stone a year after taking an office job: “It made me unhappy, not least because of all the fast food places yards from our office – there’s nothing else to do round here.”

Six months after taking advantage of a work-sponsored cycle-to-work scheme, she says that the weight is falling off and she’s more confident in her job than she has been for years. “I’m all the healthier for it,” she says.

Hall says that companies that pay for healthy activities for their staff should see it as a long-term investment rather than an immediate cost.

“In the medium to long term, you’re going to see fitter and happier office staff. Not only that, they’ll be motivated into coming to work, with the financial bonus of lower sick pay costs.

“Think of it as an extension of your existing Health and Safety policy.”

Gov’t invests £500,000 in closed-road cycling circuits in Yorkshire

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has revealed that £500,000 is to be invested into cycling facilities in Yorkshire. The funding comes as part of a wider £800,000 package to help promote the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire.

£500,000 will be paid directly to British Cycling as a contribution to constructing a number of closed road circuits across the county.

The facilities will provide a traffic-free environment for competitive and recreational cyclists who want to take part in the sport. The move will provide sites that will help increase cycling participation in the region, which is currently preparing to stage the first ever Tour de Yorkshire in May, following a successful hosting of the 2014 Tour de France Grand Depart.

British Cycling CEO, Ian Drake said:

“British Cycling has a proven record of delivering good value for investment in cycling facilities so today’s announcement by Deputy Prime Minister is great news for the sport and great news for Yorkshire.

“Expanding the network of traffic free cycling facilities has been a key ambition for British Cycling and we are continually supporting and investing in projects to offer cycling opportunities for all.

“Traffic free facilities are vital to increasing participation in cycling and we will continue to work with funding partners to support projects, large and small, nationwide.”

Minister for Sport and Tourism, Helen Grant, said:

“British Cycling has been a great success story in recent years and I want the sport to continue to grow at all levels. This funding will not only strengthen cycling in Yorkshire but also promote the area to tourists through the first Tour de Yorkshire this Spring.”

120-mile Sandstone Way MTB trail is signed, mapped and now awaits riders

The official map for the Sandstone Way, Northumberland’s new 120-mile mountain bike trail, is now available.

The MTB trail between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Hexham passes through numerous villages and small communities including Wooler, Belford, Rothbury, Elsdon and Bellingham, hugging the coastline before taking in the Simonside sandstone ridge and other features of Northumberland National Park.

The official map retails for £7.99, with a minimum of £2 from each sale going towards improving the Sandstone Way experience.

A Sandstone Way website goes live on 21st February (there’s a holding page online at the moment) and will include information on planning a ride, with information on local facilities and cycling-friendly accommodation along the way.

Rideable in one long day for the super-fit most riders will take three or four days to complete the route. The route is clearly waymarked with a green and yellow “S” roundel. Ten optional loops are also offered to appeal to day riders who wish to cycle back to their starting point or follow a more challenging option.

The Sandstone Way was developed by veteran trail creator Ted Liddle, who also worked on the C2C and the Reivers’ Way and many other long-distance cycle trails. It was seed-funded by Northumberland National Park Authority, Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Project, Northumberland County Council, Tyne Valley Mountain Bike Club and the Rural Development Programme for England through the Northern Lands Project.

Liddle said:

“The Sandstone Way was designed to link some of the best lengths of off-road track in Northumberland taking mountain bikers into Northumberland’s hidden corners on centuries-old tracks and historic byways. Cycling the Sandstone Way really is an adventure which guarantees a truly memorable experience for all the right reasons.”

Both Hexham and Berwick upon Tweed are served by rail, and there are bus connections along the Northumberland Coast AONB and into the valleys of the National Park for those wishing to make a holiday of it and leave the car behind.

The Sandstone Way uses existing Public Rights of Way for most of its length, including a mix of double-width dirt tracks, sections of single-track, unsurfaced lanes and bridleways of all types as well as byways and little known Unclassified County Roads (UCRs). There are also linking sections of quiet minor roads and surfaced country lanes.

Active travel is “fundamental part of tackling the obesity crisis”, says Sustrans

New research published in a specialist part of the British Medical Journal has (again, and yet again) revealed that a third of children in England are overweight or obese. This is according to a 20 year study of health records.

The analysis showed that between 1994 and 2003 the prevalence of being overweight and obesity in all children increased by over 8 percent each year.

Philip Insall, director of health for Sustrans, said:

“Even if we are looking at the rise of obesity ‘levelling off’, more children than ever before still face avoidable diseases and shortened lives because of obesity.

“Getting people on the right track with their health starts young; enabling our kids to be more active through walking and cycling as part of their everyday journeys is a fundamental part of tackling the obesity crisis.’

“Parliament has made significant progress recognising the need for a walking and cycling investment strategy within the new Infrastructure Bill. This is the kind of national, intensive action we need to see and keep happening.”