Money spent on cycle routes is money saved says charity as budget cuts loom

As the coalition government begins to tackle the country’s massive debts through correspondingly huge cuts to public spending, Sustrans is urging Ministers to look at the returns offered by an expansion of the National Cycle Network.

The charity, which is currently celebrating 15 years of the network, says that in 2009 the infrastructure carried 407 million cycling and walking journeys, and helped at least two million people be more active.

And the number of people using the 12,600 miles of routes demonstrates that money could be saved if government invested more cash to further increase levels of walking and cycling, claims the charity. Sustrans says the current cost of inactivity amongst the UK population is £760 million per annum and that the National Cycle Network is a cost-effective solution, with the health benefits of people cycling on it adding up to £288 million per annum.

Building a mile of walking and cycling path costs as little as £150,000 compared to £10.6 million for a mile of road says the charity, adding that for every pound spent building new walking and cycling routes we get £4 back, primarily through the improved health of those able to get out more under their own steam.

Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans’ Chief Executive: “With public spending at a crossroads we have a unique opportunity to save on transport budgets and give people more choice on how they travel”

“Our work shows just how easy it is for people to make different travel choices if they are given the opportunity – over three million people used the National Cycle Network in 2009.

“With more investment in extending travel choice, we could double the number of local trips being made on foot, bike and public transport in the next ten years, and reap the huge benefits (and savings) of reduced congestion and CO2 emissions, more active lifestyles and more pleasant neighbourhoods.”

In 2009 the National Cycle Network carried 208 million cycling trips and 199 million on foot. Over the last nine years it has grown in length by 200 per cent but the number of journeys made on it has increased dramatically – with cycle trips increasing by 400 per cent and walking journeys by 300 per cent.


vorsprung [282 posts] 6 years ago

for every pound spent building new walking and cycling routes we get £4 back, primarily through the improved health of those able to get out more under their own steam

This seems a bizarre claim
How do they know?

Tony Farrelly [2893 posts] 6 years ago

We did something on this a while back, but we've done so many Sustrans stories I'm struggling to find it. Essentially though that figure is based on the savings made in health spending, carbon emissions, shorter journey times etc, etc and I'm sue we've also reported on findings of a similar cost benefit ratio by a non Sustrans study.

There's a lot more here on the various claimed cost benefits of differing types of investment in cycling and walking http://www.sustrans.org.uk/assets/files/policy/Sustrans_MHLS_Evidence_10...

vorsprung [282 posts] 6 years ago

I found the Sustrans document that makes the claims

It's here


They don't seem to establish their primary claim that

1) We increase building more cycle paths
2) This makes more people cycle

They did stuff like monitor the total traffic on cycle paths, questioned a sample about if they were new cyclists. They then extrapolated this to claim a figure for new cyclists and then multiplied the figure into a NHS health saving

More people might have been cycling due to the increase in the price of motoring, the congestion charge, the nice weather, the bike to work scheme or indeed anything. It does not follow if you build a bikepath then that increases traffic on that path

For example, there is a new-ish bike path between the local railway station and a village near me. If I go on this path I usually see more dog walkers than bikes. Does this mean that the path should claim that it has caused an increase in dog ownership? This is not a valid claim. Yet this seems to be the thrust of the Sustrans position