Investing in cycling pays big dividends, say experts

'This one runs on fat & saves you money' by Peter Drew of Adelaide

In a blistering attack on the Coalition Government’s expected abolition of Cycling England – a move that also puts at risk Bikeability cycle training – author and journalist Christian Wolmar urges transport minister Norman Baker to “stand up for what you believe in” and not risk being a “collaborator” with the Tories.

Wolmar is a member of the Cycling England board and wouldn’t want to rock any boats. His strongly-worded attack is clear evidence that Cycling England is very likely to be abolished in the forthcoming “killing of the quangos.”

Wolmar chides Baker: “Now don’t start blustering that cycling will be safe without Cycling England or a properly-funded successor body. It won’t. The new fund is not due to start till 2012 anyway, and Cycling England’s money runs out in 2011. Giving ‘freedom’ to local authorities with less money and no precise remit to spend it on cycling will result in more kids failing to learn to ride. Many will be unhealthier and fatter and our roads will be clogged with more parents driving their kids around everywhere. Make no mistake – your decision will affect real lives.”

Strong stuff.

While Cycling England faces the chop (a website has been created to try and prevent this –, it’s very possible that the Coalition Government will wheel out its Big Society idea and say that cycle funding should be decided locally, and national schemes run by bodies independent of the Government. Of course, three such bodies spring to mind: CTC, British Cycling and Sustrans.

All would angle for cash to carry on the work of Cycling England. None can be seen to be pre-pitching for such work. All are agreed that cycling has clear economic benefits to society.

Sustrans has issued a statement pointing out the economic benefits of cycling, headlined ‘The National Cycle Network – a solution to government spending dilemma.’

Tomorrow Sustrans celebrates 15 years of the National Cycle Network. In 2009 the Network carried 407 million cycling and walking journeys, and helped at least two million people be more active. The health benefit of walking and cycling journeys on the Network in 2009 is estimated at £384 million. If each of thosejourneys replaced a car trip the potential carbon savings were worth £32 million, said Sustrans.

“Given that the current costs of inactivity are set at £760 million per annum the National Cycle Network is a cost-effective solution, with the health benefits of people cycling on it adding up to £288 million pa,” said Sustrans.

“Building a mile of walking and cycling path costs as little as £150,000 compared to £10.6 million for a mile of road. And for every pound spent building new walking and cycling routes we get £4 back, primarily thanks to the improved health of those able to get out more under their own steam.”

Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans’ Chief Executive said: “With public spending at a crossroads we have a unique opportunity to save on transport budgets and give people more choice on how they travel.

“Our work shows just how easy it is for people to make different travel choices if they are given the opportunity. With more investment in extending travel choice, we could double the number of local trips being made on foot, bike and public transport in the next ten years, and reap the huge benefits (and savings) of reduced congestion and CO2 emissions, more active lifestyles and more pleasant neighbourhoods.”

On 11th September 1995, an award from the Millennium Commission enabled Sustrans to embark on the first 2,500 miles of a 6,500 mile National Cycle Network. The Network now extends to just over 12,600 miles and carries one million walking and cycling journeys every day.

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