Growth in cycling could save NHS up to £250m a year

Boardman and Boris

Olympic champion Chris Boardman and Mayor of London Boris Johnson

The NHS would stand to save £250m a year if one in 10 journeys currently made by car were undertaken on a bicycle, a study has revealed.

Cambridge university researchers found that if cycling made up 10% of all journeys, up from the current level of just 2%, Britain would gain the combined equivalent of more than 1m years of healthy living over just one decade.

The study, commissioned by British Cycling to campaign for the government to take the benefits of cycling more seriously, found that even relatively small increases in cycling could have major health benefits. It found that if just five minutes of the average 36 minutes a day people spend in cars was instead spent cycling, the NHS would see a 5% fall in inactivity-related illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and strokes.

Olympic cycling champion Chris Boardman, who will give evidence to the Commons transport select committee today, said that the government needs to wake up to the fact that cycling is the answer to a range of transport and health issues.

Boardman said:  “Britain is now one of the most successful cycling nations in the world. How can we be getting it so right in terms of elite success but still be failing to truly embed cycling as an everyday part of British culture? This research demonstrates that the impact of more cycling would have positive effects for everyone.

“In the 1970s, the Netherlands made a conscious choice to put people first and make cycling and walking their preferred means of transport. It is no coincidence that they are also one of the healthiest and happiest nations in the world. Local and national government needs to wake up and realise that cycling is the solution to so many of the major problems Britain is now facing.”

The study, which informs British Cycling’s manifesto, Time to Choose Cycling, notes that while cycling remains extremely safe, many people are put off commuting via bike due to concerns over lack of cycle infrastructure and proximity to fast-moving traffic and lorries.

The manifesto’s key recommendations include a drive to promote improved cycling infrastructure at junctions. The work would be paid for by increasing spending to £10 per person a year, up from the current figure of £2 per person per year. This represents quite a hike, but is significantly lower than the £75 per person per year spent by the government on road infrastructure.

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