A new study has revealed how the National Cycle Network has helped the UK economy save a whopping £7 billion since it was established 20 years ago not only by reducing fuel usage, but also by improving people’s health, reducing congestion, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The £7 billion in savings are equivalent to almost £1 million a day, notes the study.
Sustrans revealed through its study that out of the £7 billion in savings, £6 billion have come from reducing health costs – a direct result of people being healthier due to walking and cycling more of their journeys. The study claims that the National Cycle Network has saved the UK economy £162 million and has saved the NHS £22 million from reducing obesity and overweight alone.
Enabling people to walk and bike for many more local and everyday journeys is one of the easiest ways to get the nation healthier and reduce spending on conditions linked with physical inactivity.
The study notes that if the number of local journeys already being made by foot, bike and public transport are doubled, the UK economy would benefit from over £110 billion over the next 30 years from the impact on health alone.
With health budgets under increasing pressure and physical inactivity already costing the UK economy around £20 billion every year, Sustrans is calling on the government to press on with developing its promised Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy to ensure that even more people can choose to walk and cycle their everyday journeys.
Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans Chief Executive, said: “The figures speak for themselves – we have demonstrated beyond doubt that many more people walking and cycling is good for our health, and it’s smarter for our economy.”
Shepherd stressed that if a charity can lead the creation of a Network of routes that runs the length and breadth of the country, a government could indeed bring about a whole lot of changes by creating safer conditions for walking and cycling, including reducing speeds.
“To make walking and cycling local journeys an option for everyone we need the new government to provide funding for cycling and walking to be equivalent of 5% of the transport budget, and a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy that contains a long-term vision and targets, in the same way that already exists for our roads and railways. This relatively small investment has the potential to have huge benefits for us all”, Shepherd said.
The year 2015 marks 20 years since Sustrans gained funding from the Lottery to develop the National Cycle Network. The Network now stretches to all four corners of the UK and covers over 14,000 miles running along traffic-free and quiet on-road routes.