New figures show that investment in cycling gives a high return, in terms of reduced congestion, lower absenteeism from work and improved health.
According to Cycling England, funding for cycling pays back at around 3:1 at present, and may go as high as 5:1 or 6:1 if the benefits are sustained over 30 years.
The assertions are based on a Department for Transport (DfT) report that uses data gleaned from the Cycling Demonstration Towns project, launched in 2005, and applies business principles and assumptions to the figures.
Cycling England estimate that:
- For every pound invested in cycling there is a return of £2.50 in health benefits – a total of around £45 million.
- Greater productivity due to reduced absenteeism is worth £1-3m.
- Less road congestion means savings on road maintenance totalling around £7m.
- More facilities for cyclists and their associated benefits are worth £9m.
- However, increased cycling levels are likely to lead to an increase in cycling accidents, resulting in a ‘disbenefit’ of up to £15m
So, for the £18m invested in the initial phase of the Cycling Demonstration Towns project, the DfT estimates a ‘return’ of between £47m and £64m – a benefit-cost ratio of between 2.6 and 3.5.
The DfT has reported an average increase in cycling across all six original Demonstration Towns – Aylesbury, Brighton & Hove, Darlington, Derby, Exeter, and Lancaster with Morecambe – of 27 percent, in contrast to the national trend of a gradual decline.
The increase is believed to be the result of more people starting to cycle or returning to it, not just the same people cycling more. Cycling to school more than doubled where towns invested most in children.
A further 11 cycling towns and the first CyclingCity were created in 2008. In their recent Mid-Term Review (2008/9-2010/11), Cycling England say: “These results give us confidence that the six Cycling Demonstration Towns and the new wave of 11 Cycling Towns, together with Greater Bristol as a Cycling City, can – given time – make a real difference to the travel culture of the UK.”
Money has been coming into cycling from the trade as well as from public funds, going to support things like National Bike Week. Much of the funding for the Bike It scheme – used to increase cycling levels in schools – has come from the industry through the Bike Hub fund. Bike It has gone from four officers for 40 schools to 50 officers for 500 schools, according to Bicycle Association president Philip Taylor speaking at their recent AGM.