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Cities are lagging behind on cycling schemes

Major cities around Britain are still lacking proper cycling infrastructure and innovative thinking on cycling schemes, the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) has said.

Cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and Edinburgh should follow the London model of a cycle hire scheme and should consider more investment in other schemes that will encourage people to cycle to work and school, said FPH Vice-President, Dr John Middleton.   
 
He said: “The cost of obesity to the nation is around one billion pounds and we have over 40,000 people dying from premature cardiovascular disease every year. With more and more people short on time to get their minimum 30-minute regular exercise five days a week, active travel is almost the ideal answer. If we made cycling to work or school the easy option, we could cut down on these depressing figures considerably.   

“London still has a long way to go to become a cycling city on a par with Amsterdam, but the launch of the cycle hire scheme in the capital has instantly made it a friendlier place for cyclists. It will increase the visibility of cycling in London with drivers becoming more accustomed to sharing the roads with bikes. When the number of cyclists on the road goes up, it also normalises cycling and can lead to a snowball effect as more people consider cycling as an option for getting from A to B.

“We want cycle schemes to be adopted across the country and everyone to be given the chance to see for themselves how easy, fun and beneficial to health cycling really is. It’s not about spending more money on transport, but investing the existing money in our health by rethinking the way in which budgets are being spent.”  

Only 2% of all travel in Britain is taken by bike, compared to 54% by car.  The capital’s new cycle hire scheme has prompted the Mayor, Boris Johnson, to hint at a potential new target of 20% of all journeys in London to be made by bike. The scheme is expected to create 40,000 cycle journeys a day in London.

In its manifesto this year, FPH called for a 25% increase in cycle lanes and cycle racks by 2015.  The lack of secure cycling storage and well-designed cycle lanes in cities has been found to be a major deterrent for many people to take up cycling.

Dr Ben Anderson, an FPH member based in Sheffield, said:  “The number of cyclists on the roads has visibly increased in the last few years with successful schemes such as Pedal Ready cycle training offered by the city council.  But cycling infrastructure is still poor even if the benefits of cycling and exercise to health are known to be enormous, reducing risk of heart disease and stroke, and protecting against and alleviating mental ill-health.” 

There are many simple measures that can be taken, many of them costing less than a cycle hire scheme, to encourage more people to take up cycling to work, school and for leisure, says FPH.

FPH is calling for more:

  • Secure cycle storage in cities
  • Well-marked and well-designed cycle lanes and advanced stop lines
  • Cycle training for local residents
  • Employers with cycle-to-work schemes – for it to become the norm rather than remain an exception
  • Schools encouraging every child and young person to learn to ride a bike with confidence so that they can build a habit of a lifetime
  • Planning permissions to include provisions for sustainable travel such as cycle storage facilities
  • Businesses to offer more cycle storage facilities
  • 20mph speed limits in residential areas to encourage cycling and walking and to improve safety on the roads

 The sustainable transport charity, Sustrans, estimates that over the next 10 years, cycling on its National Cycle Network could save the NHS and wider economy £3.4 billion.

Sustrans has also shown that the average benefit-to-cost ratio of a traffic-free walking and cycling route is 26:1, with the majority of benefit coming from improved health, whereas improving a section of the A14 road near Cambridge has a benefit-to-cost ratio of 10:83.


In Germany, where spending on cycling infrastructure has been significantly higher than in the UK, it is common in major cities for cycling to make up more than 20% of all journeys.

Written: 04/08/2010 , last modified: 02/02/2011

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