British Cycling has published a report showing the benefits that would arise from a similarly bicycle friendly culture such as that adopted in cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, as well as less likely role model urban areas like New York.
The results are staggering in that NHS costs could be reduced by £17 billion over a course of 20 years and no fewer than 500 road deaths per annum could be avoided.
The report does not list recommendations but it does point out some real evidence based outcomes from an investment in cycling that demand attention. Physical and mental health, economic efficiency, retail uplift and many more significant positive outcomes can be generated.
You can read the compact report here and it is a worthwhile exercise.
Sport for Business showed the report over the weekend to a number of individuals and organisations that are involved in cycling to elicit their response.
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
“The Department is aware of the many reports into the health benefits of cycling and this report reflects previous research into the benefits of cycling investment worldwide and are in line with the reasoning behind the Department funding cycling projects in the State.”
“The Department has allocated significant funding over the years to encourage cycle use.”
“The Department allocated €23.5m for the period 2012 to 2016 to advance works on greenways and cycle lanes as part of the National Cycle Network (NCN) that will provide valuable transport and recreational infrastructure, with the added potential to enhance tourist activity in the areas concerned.”
“In February, 2012 the local authorities of Limerick City & County, Waterford and Mayo, as winners of the National Competition for Smarter Travel Areas, were awarded total funding of €21.7 million over a 5-year period to transform the respective areas of Limerick City & Environs, Dungarvan and Westport into Smarter Travel Areas, promoting, among other measures, cycling and walking, the use of public transport and reducing car travel. The three project areas each present a different range of opportunities and challenges in delivering smarter travel.”
“Funding for Active Travel Towns was also made in 2012 and 2014 for a number of towns and cycling was a key component of the measures undertaken in those towns.”
“The Department has also funded, through the National Transport Authority, €71.5m to fund Sustainable Transport Measures Grants in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) in 2012/2013 a substantial portion of this money has provided new and improved cycling infrastructure in the region. Funding of €5.2m has also been provided to provide Public Bike Hire Schemes in Limerick, Galway and Cork all of which will commence by year-end and a further €5m to expand the Dublin Bikes scheme.”
“Cycling numbers in Dublin have increased by 87% since 2006* which shows the benefits achieved from this level of investment in infrastructure and through schemes such as the Bike to Work tax relief scheme.”
“Bike Week has also provided lots of entertainment and information for new and re-newed cyclists over the past number of years and is funded by the Department.”
“The objective of all of our funding in cycling is to normalise cycling as a way of travel to work, to school and for leisure activity. The health benefits are massive and we are particularly looking at attracting new users to cycling.”
“We are also introducing new Cycling Standards to standardise cycle training in the country for the first time and to roll-out training, particularly (but not exclusively) to young people in schools who will be the next generation of cyclists.”
“The National Cycle Policy Framework was published by the Department’s Smarter Travel office in 2009 and has informed policy in the area since, that Policy Framework will be subject to a review that is commencing shortly that will take cognisance of the latest research in the area, including that of Dr Rachel Aldred and others.”
“Our investment in cycling to date and in the future has had and will have, as shown in Dr Aldred’s report, significant health benefits for those cycling but will also assist in easing pressure on our hospitals, reducing absenteeism in the workplace and making our cities better places in which to live and work.”
Geoff Liffey, CEO Cycling Ireland
“The Government here has in the last five years placed more emphasis on cycling, and the Bike to Work Scheme has made a big difference in making bicycle purchasing affordable to many people. This in turn has provided support to many new bike shops around the country.
“Likewise the Dublin Bike Scheme is well documented as a tremendous success, not just in terms of usage but also in helping to ‘normalise’ cycling around the city and for short trips.”
“The 2009 National Cycle Policy probably had too many objectives in it and would benefit from a review to identify more near-term achievable items.”
“There is still a lot more to be done around urban infrastructure and facilities at workplaces as the figures in the census still show high levels of people driving relatively short distances to work, when a bike would be much quicker and healthier for them, if of course they felt safe on route and had the facilities at the other end.”
“The success of the greenway in Mayo has sparked the development of similar initiatives around the country and if these can be effectively marketed and supported locally there is a market for a series of regional cycling hubs which can be developed as tourist spots and also by developing the local cycle-ways in such a way that they can be used by the ‘transportation’ cyclist on route to work.”
“Finally the relationship of investment on sport as a percentage on health always seems very skewed as previously the amount channelled towards sport was about .003% of the health budget of €13billion.”
“Now we all know the health budget is a “challenge” but surely some more resources towards preventive care via sports participation projects would be a worthwhile investment.”
Barney Whelan, Communications Director for an Post, among the biggest commercial sponsors of cycling in Ireland.
“The An Post Cycle Series is the grassroots element of the An Post Cycling portfolio, which ensures the brand’s sponsorship of Irish cycling reaches every level of the sport, from mass participation events, to the flagship An Post Rás – Ireland’s premier cycling race and the An Post Sean Kelly Academy team who compete around the world, with a primary aim of developing Irish riders into world class athletes. The Company also sponsors the An Post Rás na mBan, Ireland’s only international women’s road race.”
“All told 17,500 people took part in the 5 events of the An Post Cycle Series during 2014. That is up from 5,500 in 2009. This series was put together to engage with the Leisure cycling cohort who range from the very fit to the very occasional. It was put together in response the report of the Report of the National Taskforce on Obesity published in 2005 and specifically includes incentives for younger people, children and parents to participate.”
“By providing a series for people we are providing the incentive for all to invest in their now physical and mental health. There are so many participants who were smoking heavily at the beginning of the year, registered for the Series and finished the 160K route on the last event of the season, having worked their way up through the shorter routes.”
“An Post carried out a study of 2400 people across 2013-1014 …. When asked “You say you are aware of at least some of An Post Cycling Initiatives. Have any of these initiatives inspired you to start cycling or to cycle more than you usually would?”
“7% said that they had started Cycling and 10% replied that they were now cycling more because of this initiative. When mapped onto the population of Ireland these are big numbers and are reflected in bike sales and participation in events across the country.”
“This has been an entirely positive relationship for An Post and the estimated economic impact on the localities involved is €3M for 2014.”
Sport for Business Opinion
Cycling is an activity which is clearly on the rise in terms of popularity among the general population. That makes it one where Government will listen given that a relatively small investment can produce a significant improvement and recognition from voters on what has been done.
The Government has been willing to invest and the fruits of that investment are clear and visible from urban to rural and spread across the country from East to West coasts.
The promised review of the 2009 National Cycle Policy will be a timely opportunity to take on board what is possible in other small countries, of not dissimilar population and climate and see what more can be done to maintain the momentum.
If that review was to highlight ways in which the workplace environment could be altered to facilitate better appeal for cycling then that would be a major step forward and also encourage business to invest, alongside Government, in programmes that will prove a winner all round.