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Getting on our bikes could save the NHS millions

New research published by CTC, the national cycling charity, suggests boosting cycle use in England could be worth as much as £6bn a year by 2025. It also claims it could even rise to £25bn annually by 2050 in health benefits alone.

 

Here in England, 43 per cent of the population owns or has access to a bicycle but taking to our bikes instead of the car or public transport is not something we choose to do. Roughly, the same percentage of people in Amsterdam and Copenhagen choose cycling everyday as their preferred mode of transport. England is not doing that badly though, in Malta 93 per cent of the population says cycling is something they never do.

CTC is basically suggesting a small increase in funding for cycling could have enormous benefits for our health service. It comes as MPs today gather in the House of Commons for a debate on cycle safety in which progress towards the revolution will be charted.

Cycling is one of the easiest ways to fit exercise into your daily routine as it is also a form of transport and it is something families can do together as a day out. Health experts say the aerobic activity is good for the young and the old. It helps to increase cardiovascular fitness, decreased stress levels and strengthen bones, as well as helping to reduce rates of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

In 2012, following the London Olympics there was a cycling boom. The positive effect of British cycle racing saw the UK fall back in love with the bicycle. The success of Bradley Wiggins, Laura Trott, Sarah Storey and others at the Olympic and Paralympic Games motivated  people to get back on two wheels.

As a parent, you will always have concerns about letting your child ride their bikes on main roads and late at night. Attitudes toward cycle helmets is often another issue that is addressed frequently by parents. The arguments in favour of wearing a helmet are based on a premise that in the event of a fall, it might substantially reduce the incidence and severity of heaWritten by Reuters / Stefan Wermuthd injuries.

In Jersey, children under the age of 14 will have to wear a helmet when cycling after a new law came into force earlier this year. Anyone caught riding a bike without a helmet risks a £50 fine for their parents.

CTC says more needs to be done to get people out and about on bikes. They claim the current road network is a major deterrent to getting more people cycling. Lower speed limits and establishing a more cycle-friendly environment could help to improve this. They also say that legislation and operation of Rights of Way should be reformed to enhance access to cyclists.

Annual spending on cycling in the Netherlands amounts to around £24 per person and London Mayor Boris Johnson has promised around £12.50 per person in London over the next 10 years. For England outside London though, current cycle spending is thought to be around £2 per person.

The delays in the Department for Transport publishing the draft plan are thought to be due to reluctance from Chancellor George Osborne to provide the funding needed to deliver a “cycling revolution”. Prime Minister David Cameron promised changes last summer, in response to the ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report.

Reuters / Stefan Wermuth

 

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