Sustrans says that the number of trips made by walkers and cyclists on the National Cycle Network (NCN) last year rose by seven per cent – equivalent to 50 million additional journeys.
In its report, Millions of People on the Move, the sustainable transport charity says that the NCN contributed more than £1 billion to the UK economy in 2013.
That comprised £803 million in health benefits, £215 million in reduced petrol bills and £25 million in carbon savings, with more than a third of NCN users choosing it rather than going by car, resulting in 157 million fewer vehicle trips.
Interestingly, despite its name according to Sustrans' figures more people walk on the National Cycle Network than cycle on it - 325 million cycling trips were made last year as opposed to 423 million walking trips.
Malcolm Shepherd, chief executive of Sustrans, said: “Official data shows levels of cycling and walking to be in long term decline, but year on year we are seeing increases in the number of people taking to the National Cycle Network both by bike and foot.
“The rise in the number of people using the National Cycle Network shows that there is a demand for safe, convenient and welcoming walking and cycling routes but too many people still feel threatened by traffic danger on the roads.
“Governments must match this demand with dedicated funding to walking and cycling and by reducing traffic speeds on our roads to create the kind of environment which encourages people to leave the car at home.
“Walking and cycling has the potential to be a silver bullet for the UK’s health as well as delivering billions of pounds in economic benefits but we urgently need safer roads to make this happen,” he added.
Launched in 1995 with the help of a £43.5million grant from the National Lottery Millennium Commission, some 748 million journeys were made on the NCN last year.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.