MarketLine Blog

British Cycling releases another comprehensive study: But will it fall on deaf ears?

There is generally a major problem in UK cities with transport, pollution and health problems. Whilst these are not specific to the UK alone, it has been suspected for a long time that investing heavily in encouraging people to cycle, will go a long way to relieving some of the worst of these problems. In London for instance there has been a concerted effort to get people on to bikes and it has taken major investment, to put in place a vast scheme of easily accessible rental bikes and cycle super highways that cross the city, which has had a measure of success.

But in other regions very little has been achieved and where there are specific existing cycle routes they are largely decrepit and poorly designed and made to fit in around car lanes which have priority making them unsafe. Even in London where there has been investment and big plans, work has even been stalled and cancelled for ambiguous reasons, with many of the planned cycle highways being dropped and some being declared so unsafe they are going to have to be re-designed and rebuilt. 12 cycle super highways were planned, but only four have been completed and the rest have been delayed and cancelled. So whilst some efforts are good intentioned they are slow and half hearted.

British Cycling has, for a number of years, been telling us just what the major benefits of increasing public levels of cycling could be. In a report produced in 2013, which was widely considered to be rather ambitious, the organisation made some observations and recommendations about increasing public levels of cycling to help increase the living standards of people living in major cities in the UK and pointed out just how far behind our European neighbours we are:

“In The Netherlands, 27% of journeys are made by bike, followed by Denmark on 19%. Even Germany manages 10%, with Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, Italy and France all lying between 5% and 9%. Britain however languishes towards the lower end of the European league table, with less than 2%”

Largely, however, the documents produced no major changes in public policy, despite this coming from a well-respected institution which is credited for Britain’s recent rise as a dominant power in global competitive cycling.  The document can be found here.

16-10-2014, British Cycling has released a comprehensive study, completed by a transport expert, comparing directly the benefits gained if the UK were to plough investment into cycling, in a similar way to countries such as Demark and the Netherlands, the summary of which can be found here.

Some of the claims made by the new report are extensive in their scope and do directly address some of the most pressing problems in Britain’s most populated cities, that of pollution, traffic, low rates of exercise, poor health, noise pollution, road deaths and over-loaded public transport. The report suggests that Danish levels of cycling in the UK could help to improve all these elements and save a vast amount of public money in the process. The evidence from the report shows that:

  • Danish levels of cycling would save the UK £17bn in under twenty years
  • Cycling saves a third of road space compared to driving, dramatically cutting congestion
  • More cycling and other sustainable transport could reduce road deaths by 30%
  • Bike parking takes up eight times less space than cars, helping to free up space
  • Shifting just 10% of journeys from car to bike would reduce air pollution and save 400 productive life years
  • Adopting Dutch safety standards could reduce cycling casualties by two thirds

Now that there is little ambiguity about the situation anymore and these effects are tangible and proven, it remains to be seen whether they will be adopted or whether this report will be ignored like the last, but it seems that investment in these things can improve modern city living greatly and in a number of ways.

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