George Osborne under fire for ignoring cycling's economic potential

By Sam Dansie | Wednesday, October 2, 2013 1.20pm

UK Chancellor George Osborne is under fire from cycling charity Sustrans for ignoring pedal power's potential to boost the economy and for his continuation of motorist-favouring policies.

One of Osborne's key pledges in his speech to Conservative Party Conference delegates on Monday – on the day he visited a vehicle maker in Altrincham – was a promise to freeze fuel duty until the next general election. Sustrans are sharply opposed to the policy, saying it could withhold investment in more greener and healthier transport options. 

Sustrans' policy director Jason Torrance said Osborne was still to acknowledge the Get Britain Cycling Report, which called for political leadership from the top of government and contained fundamental recommendations to boost cycling levels from two percent of all journeys to 10 percent by 2025.

"He's on a different page," Torrance said.  "Osborne is missing a critical trick that cycling could bring to regenerating local economies and making our cities more liveable for people who live, work and shop there.

"I can see a vision of the future as rolled out by George Osborne that is centred on car drivers and they're only one of many road users. It's really unfortunate – it's a litany of missed opportunities and in terms of the future for our children a real poverty of ambition."

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A number of research papers suggest have pointed to the positive impact cycling has on the economy. In 2011, a Sky and British Cycling-supported London School of Economics report estimated cyclists contribute £2.9bn a year to the national economy through direct economic activity, improved productivity and reduced NHS health bills.  

Further afield, a 2012 New York City Department of Transportation study noted a 49 percent improvement in shop trade where streets had been made safer.

The Conservative transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin defended the UK Government's stance on cycling. In his speech to the conference delegates on Monday he said the government had invested "more than ever before" and said the activity needed further investment. 

Last month the government trumpeted a £148m investment in cycling infrastructure in eight urban areas and four national parks.

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