If the UK population made at least one in 10 journeys by bicycle the NHS could save £250m per year according to a recent study.
The researchers at Cambridge University have also said that if trips made by bicycle were increased to 10%, from the current figure of about 2%, the population would gain the combined equivalent of more than 1m years of healthy living over a decade as inactivity related illness would decrease.
The research was performed by Cambridge University’s Centre for Diet and Activity Research for British Cycling to increase cycling levels across the UK.
British Cycling is the governing body for cycling sport in the UK with many Olympic and world titles to its name. However, recently they have began running campaigns to promote everyday cycling. The campaigns are primarily led by their policy adviser, a former Olympic champion Chris Boardman.
Boardman has 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 research suggests that even small changes could provide tremendous health benefits. People spend on average 36 minutes a day travelling in a car and if they spent just 5 minutes of that time cycling, there would a 5% fall within the NHS of inactivity related illnesses such as diabetes and strokes.
The manifesto, “Time to Choose Cycling” recognises that cycling remains extremely safe but many people are put off by lack of cycle roads and having to be on the same road as fast-moving traffic.
There are 10 recommendations in the campaign to make cycling more popular, the main one being that cycle safety must be designed into all roads and junctions. This would be paid by guaranteed long term spending allowance of at least £10 per person per year. This is a great increase from the current figure which is only £2 but still much lower than the £75 which is spent on roads.
British Cycling are also requesting that the Highway Code is revised to remove the suggestion that cyclers always should wear helmet and high visibility clothing. Their argument is that it is "unhelpful because it is detrimental to our aims to normalise cycling in everyday culture".
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