Higher levels of cycling could prevent 34,000 life-threatening illnesses in seven UK cities by 2040, a new report suggests.
The report, published by the walking and cycling charity Sustrans, looks at the health, economic and environmental benefits of cycling in seven cities: Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester and Newcastle.
It estimates 34,000 incidences of eight life-threatening conditions including Type 2 diabetes, stroke, breast cancer and depression, could be prevented in these cities by 2040 – if cycling increased at rates like those seen in London since the millennium.
The report is based on data from Bike Life, the largest assessment of cycling in UK cities. Its modelling follows the Government’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy which seeks to double levels of cycling in England by 2025.
If that goal is achieved, more than one billion cycling trips would take place in 2040 in the seven cities – an eight-fold increase from 123 million trips in 2017. Among the benefits of this would be:
- More than 242 million hours of additional physical activity
- 628 early deaths prevented
- £21 billion of savings to the economy
However, Sustrans warns that the substantial health benefits from increased cycling are only possible if long term political commitment and investment across Government exist.
Sustrans, along with other walking and cycling organisations, wants the UK Government to commit 5% of the transport budget on active travel, rising to 10% by 2025.
The new report also outlines a set of five ‘must-haves’ for local government to help increase, and ‘normalise’, cycling for local journeys.
- Political commitment alongside ambitious plans and long-term investment
- Delivery of a high-quality cycling network: including on-road cycle tracks separated from motor traffic, off-road paths, and local routes on low-trafficked and low-speed streets
- Neighbourhoods designed in a way that prioritises people walking and cycling, including traffic restraint measures
- People and businesses supported to change travel behaviours
- Cycling fully integrated with public transport, homes and work
Xavier Brice, chief executive at Sustrans said: “Our report provides 34,000 reasons why governments across the UK should prioritise investment in cycling.
“Every part of the country is facing a physical inactivity and obesity crisis, which is why decision-makers need to get on the front foot and tackle these problems head-on.”