Cycling in IrelandSport is about individual effort and achievement but it should also be about improving public policy in terms of health, wellbeing and improving society.

British Cycling has launched a manifesto to ‘Change Cycling’ across that country and many of the proposals included are fully supported by Cycling Ireland here.

The bold claim in the document is that if people young and old made just one in 10 trips by bike, that could translate to a gain the equivalent of almost one million extra healthy years of life over the next decade.

New research by Cambridge University has also shown that if people replaced just five minutes of the 36 minutes they spend each day in the car with cycling, there would be an almost 5% annual reduction in the health burden from inactivity-related illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, stroke and some cancers.

If 10% of trips in England and Wales were made by bike, the savings to the NHS of the top inactivity related illnesses would be at least £250 million per year, according to data published as part of the manifesto.  Even if we applied a 90% reduction for size of population in Ireland that would still mean an annual saving of over €30 million to the HSE, 75% of the value of public money invested in current spending from public funds in 2014.

“In the 1970s, the Netherlands made a conscious choice to put people first and make cycling and walking their preferred means of transport,” said Olympic Gold Medallist Chris Boardman at the launch.

“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.”

“Cycling is a great way for people to embed physical activity in their everyday lives,” added Dr James Woodcock, a senior researcher at Cambridge University’s Centre for Diet and Activity Research.

“If we can get people to stay active throughout their lives then it can make a huge difference to their health. To make cycling a mass activity in Britain, as it is in the Netherlands, is going to require both environments that make cyclists feel safe and a culture that says cycling is a normal way for people to get around – whatever their age.”