New government research outlines economic case for cycling

12.00 | 31 March 2016 | | 1 comment

The DfT has published research looking at how to increase levels of cycling across the country, and putting forward the economic case for cycling.

The two research papers were published as the cycling minister Robert Goodwill unveiled a new government strategy which aims to encourage more walking and cycling.

The new strategy, launched on 27 March, ‘has a clear ambition’ that by 2040 getting around by bike or on foot will be the natural choice for shorter journeys, or as part of a longer journey.

However, the 2014 National Travel Survey revealed that at that time just 1% of average distance travelled by a person was by bicycle.

The first research paper looks at work undertaken for the DfT on the National Propensity to Cycle Tool (NPCT), a prototype tool available online which allows users to see commuting cycling potential at area and route level.

The report says analysis of ‘propensities to cycle’ has, for the first time, provided detailed comparison of cycling patterns in England and the Netherlands. This includes analysis on how propensity to cycle varies by age and gender, and how this interacts with distance.

The report includes two ‘evidence reviews’ which identify a ‘clear stated preference for separation from busy or fast motor traffic’, and an indication that creating such routes can increase cycling levels. The report says preferences for separation from traffic are particularly strong for women and appear also to be stronger for older people.

The report says the NPCT can be used to predict cycling flow rates in numerous scenarios including: doubling the amount of cycling, more electric bikes, women and men being equally likely to cycle; and if cycling became as popular as it is in the Netherlands.

The report also assesses the impact of a number of cycling funds and grants including the ‘Cycling city ambition grant’, ‘Local Sustainable Transport Fund’, ‘Sustainable travel projects’ and CycleNetXChange.

A second report comprises an evidence review of the economic benefits of cycling which concludes that ‘economic growth can result from high density, cycle friendly urban design’.

It also found that cycle friendly neighbourhoods can have ‘greater retail spend’ and says cycle parking allows ‘five times more retail spend than the same space for car parking’.


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    Sounds like another government report that works backwards from the required answer. Cyclists don’t pay any specific cycling taxes, don’t pay parking fees, don’t tend to have insurance, don’t pay fuel taxes – money lost to the economy.

    Plus there is this recent report: Consultant Regeneris was commissioned by the London Borough of Enfield to assess visitor spend in town centres on the A105, following concern that the council’s plans to introduce segregated cycle lanes along the corridor would harm local trade.

    Regeneris reports that a January 2015 survey in Palmers Green discovered that car drivers accounted for 25.1% of visitors but 34.4% of spend. Bus passengers accounted for 30.4% of visitors and 29.2% of spend. Walkers accounted for 36.2% of visitors but 28.6% of spend and cyclists accounted for 1.1% of visitors but 1.3% of spend.

    The contribution of motorists was even greater in the survey of Winchmore Hill town centre. Drivers accounted for 20.4% of visitors but 44.2% of spend whereas bus passengers made up 30.4% of visitors but only 20.8% of spend. Walkers accounted for 43.1% of visitors but 32.5% of spend. Cyclists made up 1.9% of visitors but only 1.2% of spend.

    A 2013 survey of over 4,300 people in 14 town centres in the capital for Transport for London found that people who walk to town centres spent the most per month, followed by bus users, then train/Tube users, then car users and finally cyclists. Although the spend by bus users per visit was lower than motorists, train and Tube users, their frequency of visiting town centres was higher.

    Paul Biggs, Staffordshire
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