Cycling gives £2.9bn boost to British economy

London School of Economics report finds 13m people cycle

A report into the economic benefits of cycling in the UK has found it's worth £2.9bn to the economy, with almost a quarter of the population now cycling.

The study, carried out by the London School of Economics (LSE) and commissioned by British Cycling and Sky, attempted to find the 'Gross Cycling Product' (GCP) in the UK. It took into account everything from bike sales to the saving of reduced sick days due to cycling, calculating a GCP of £230 per cyclist.

According to the report, the basis for the boom lies in increases in participation. 208 million cycling journeys were made in 2010, with 1.3m new cyclists from 2009, bringing the number of regular cyclists to 13m. 40 percent of households now own a bike and driving this growth were factors such as a 200 percent expansion (an extra 12,000 miles) of the National Cycle Network.

The GCP took into account factors such as bicycle manufacturing, cycle and accessory retails and cycle related employment. A 28 percent increase in retail sales help shift 3.7 million bikes in 2010, generating £1.62bn. The rest of the £2.9bn can be broken down into cycling accessories and maintenance (£853m), bike-related employment (25,000 people generating £600m in wages and taxes) and reduced work absenteeism (£128m).

And the report suggests even more gains can be made in the future, with frequent cyclists saving the economy £2bn in reduced sick days in the next decade. Just a 20 percent rise in current cycling levels by 2015 could save £207m in reduced traffic congestion and £71m in lower pollution. It also claims there is around £516m of untapped economic potential for people waiting to start cycling, with barriers including cycling road safety and confidence needing to be broken down.

The report concluded that the industry showed strong signs of sustainable growth in the long term. It suggested that while the recent economic downturn had most likely contributed to cycling’s resurgence, factors such as environmental concerns, increasing health awareness and international sporting success shouldn’t be downplayed. It says efforts to “normalise” cycling need to be stepped up, addressing obstacles to participation like safety and access.

Dr Alexander Grous, LSE, who conducted the research said: "The good news is that structural, economic, social and health factors seem finally to have created a true step-change in the UK's cycling scene. The growth in involvement we've witnessed in recent years feels like a sustainable trend for the first time. In order to build on this momentum and follow the lead, in participation terms, of countries like Denmark and the Netherlands, it's now essential that the industry focuses on converting the many occasional, lapsed and leisure cyclists into regular and frequent riders."

The full report is available to view here.

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