New guidance puts cycling and walking at centre of efforts to improve nation's health

National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence says cycling and walking need to be encouraged at local level

by Simon_MacMichael   November 28, 2012  

Dog in bike basket (copyright Simon MacMichael)

Tags

New guidance from public health body the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which develops clinical guidelines for the NHS, puts cycling and walking at the centre of efforts to improve the nation’s health, saying they “should become the norm for short journeys and should be encouraged throughout local communities.”

The guidance, published today, outlines the role physical activity can play in improving health and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, with NICE saying that “local authorities, schools and workplaces should introduce ways to enable their communities to be more physically active and change their behaviours.”

According to NICE, the benefits of regular physical exercise include cutting the risk of conditions including stroke, type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease by as much as 50 per cent.

However, nearly two thirds of men (61 per cent) and almost three quarters of women (71 per cent) aged 16+ do not get enough exercise.

It’s a similar picture among children, where only half of boys and one third of girls aged 2 to 10 years meeting recommended daily level of physical activity.

That lack of physical exercise is leading to an obesity epidemic which NICE likens the threat to that posed by smoking, which in turn will lead to a deterioration in the nation’s health as well as placing further strain on healthcare resources.

NICE has called for “coordinated action to identify and address the barriers that may be discouraging people from walking and cycling more often or at all,” including:

Implement town-wide programmes to promote cycling for both transport and recreational purposes. These could include cycle hire schemes, car-free events or days, providing information such as maps and route signing, activities and campaigns that emphasise the benefits of cycling, fun rides, and others.

Ensure walking routes are integrated with accessible public transport links to support longer journeys. Signage should give details of the distance and/or walking time, in both directions, between public transport facilities and key destinations.

Develop and implement school travel plans that encourage children to walk or cycle all or part of the way to school, including children with limited mobility. Pupils should be involved in the development and implementation of these plans.

Ensure walking and cycling are considered alongside other interventions, when working to achieve specific health outcomes in relation to the local population (such as a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes, or the promotion of mental wellbeing).

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence at NICE commented: “We want to encourage and enable people to walk and cycle more and weave these forms of travel into everyday life.

“This guidance is aimed at making it easier for people to do this, as well as explaining the benefits and helping to address some of the safety fears that some people may have.”

Philip Insall, Director of Health for Sustrans added: “Inactive lifestyles are now causing as many early deaths as smoking - if a virus was this deadly it would fill the front pages and dominate debates in parliament.

“Walking and cycling are among the easiest ways to get active but many people are understandably put off by traffic, safety fears and lack of experience.

“It is now critical to make our roads safer and help everyone to feel confident on a bike or on foot. We need government and local authorities to implement these recommendations immediately to improve people's lives now and save the NHS billions in the long run.”

At a press launch ahead of the publication of its guidance today, the report's author, Dr Harry Rutter, was asked whether NICE, in encouraging people to cycle, had taken account of the danger of riding a bike, reports the Guardian.

That perceived risk is the single biggest deterrent to getting people to ride bikes.

In his response, he pointed out that remaining inactive was far more dangerous to people’s health.

“All activities carry a risk,” Dr Rutter explained. “For some reason there seems to be strong focus on the risk of injury associated with cycling.

“Clearly, when deaths to takes place that's tragic, and we need to do all we can to avoid them. But I think there is a perception that cycling is much more dangerous than it really is.

“This focus on the dangers of cycling is something to do with the visibility of them, and the attention it's given.

“What we don't notice is that if you were to spend an hour a day riding a bike rather than being sedentary and driving a car there's a cost to that sedentary time. It's silent, it doesn't get noticed.

“What we're talking about here is shifting the balance from that invisible danger of sitting still towards the positive health benefits of cycling.”

Not all press coverage has been as positive as the Guardian's. Instead of addressing the potential benefits for the nation's health, the Daily Mail focused instead on just one paragraph of the 126-page report which suggested that restricted parking or higher car parking charges might be one way of enocuraging more people to walk or cycle.

 

22 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Wouldn't expect anything less from the Daily Mail. It's the paper I'd expect the stereotypical overweight, middle-aged, speeding driver who's angry at cyclists for slowing him/her up by a few seconds to read.

Dr Rutter is absolutely right that we need to focus on the benefits, not the risks of a relatively safe activity.

CraigS's picture

posted by CraigS [135 posts]
28th November 2012 - 9:45

like this
Like (2)

Please don't click on the link to the Heil. Half of their (considerable) online traffic comes from links to their hateful fear-mongering bullshit from other (rightly) outraged websites.

Ghedebrav's picture

posted by Ghedebrav [1091 posts]
28th November 2012 - 9:55

like this
Like (3)

I saw this on Sky News. It mentions cycling as a possible activity, but that's the only link, but it didn't stop this numpty:

MinuteMan3
8:56 AM on 28/11/2012
Why, so you have more bicyclists wanting to use the road, but not obey the rules of the road. They have dedicated cycle lanes to wait at red lights like other road users do, but 99% of them completely ignore red lights. Why don't the government start penalising the cyclist. If a car goes through a red light, it's 3 points and a fine. When a cyclist does it, nothing happens. Very transparent rules.

rant, rant rant etc.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3108 posts]
28th November 2012 - 11:24

like this
Like (2)

The report didn't even mention parking charges.

It only says 'It should be noted that reducing car use may have a beneficial influence on the environment by reducing traffic volume and air pollution and this may a positive influence on the health of the whole population' (p39 of 126, para 3.39).

The Mail has extrapolated that to mean increased parking charges. It's a pity as there are many sensible, well-balanced suggestions in the guidance.

The most important recommendation for us cyclists is recommendation 2, which calls for all local authority officers to work together on planning/road schemes to ensure that barriers to cycling (and walking) are removed.

The report also shows that every cycling initiative undertaken in the UK shows a positive benefit to cost ratio when the savings due to public health benefits are included.

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
28th November 2012 - 12:40

like this
Like (2)

Speaking as a slightly lardy middle aged man who drives a convertible car AND a BMW, both too fast...

Sounds like a step in the right direction.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [826 posts]
28th November 2012 - 12:48

like this
Like (2)

--

posted by Sam1 [218 posts]
28th November 2012 - 12:53

like this
Like (2)

notfastenough wrote:
I saw this on Sky News. It mentions cycling as a possible activity, but that's the only link, but it didn't stop this numpty:

MinuteMan3
8:56 AM on 28/11/2012
Why, so you have more bicyclists wanting to use the road, but not obey the rules of the road. They have dedicated cycle lanes to wait at red lights like other road users do, but 99% of them completely ignore red lights. Why don't the government start penalising the cyclist. If a car goes through a red light, it's 3 points and a fine. When a cyclist does it, nothing happens. Very transparent rules.

rant, rant rant etc.

Sorry but RLJs dont help anyone. And it just gives drivers something to latch onto for a rant, and its a distraction from the case for cyclists to be treated equally.

posted by Sam1 [218 posts]
28th November 2012 - 12:54

like this
Like (1)

Sam1 wrote:
Sorry but RLJs dont help anyone. And it just gives drivers something to latch onto for a rant, and its a distraction from the case for cyclists to be treated equally.

It's still a case of victim blaming. If I get hit by a car, it doesn't make it ok just because someone somewhere ran a red light. Plenty of drivers speed and talk on their phone but no-one uses that to attack all drivers, because the car is king.

If you live in a society where you get people blaming rape victims for the way they dress, you'll always get people transferring the blame for cycle deaths onto cyclists. If RLJs weren't used to tar all cyclists, it would be not using cycle lanes, or cycling on pavements, or cycling too fast, or cycling too slow, or riding too far out from the curb, or not wearing hi-vis, or not having passed a test...

CraigS's picture

posted by CraigS [135 posts]
28th November 2012 - 13:17

like this
Like (2)

More nice words, but where are the deeds?

posted by a.jumper [698 posts]
28th November 2012 - 13:18

like this
Like (2)

CraigS wrote:
Sam1 wrote:
Sorry but RLJs dont help anyone. And it just gives drivers something to latch onto for a rant, and its a distraction from the case for cyclists to be treated equally.

It's still a case of victim blaming. If I get hit by a car, it doesn't make it ok just because someone somewhere ran a red light. Plenty of drivers speed and talk on their phone but no-one uses that to attack all drivers, because the car is king.

If you live in a society where you get people blaming rape victims for the way they dress, you'll always get people transferring the blame for cycle deaths onto cyclists. If RLJs weren't used to tar all cyclists, it would be not using cycle lanes, or cycling on pavements, or cycling too fast, or cycling too slow, or riding too far out from the curb, or not wearing hi-vis, or not having passed a test...

Inappropriate analogy. Remove the cause for the gripe, so that it helps the conversation move on. And its illegal, so it further drives drivers AND pedestrians AND some other cyclists, crazy, and totally weakens the cycling side of the debate.

Why do some people feel that an action that breaks the law, should be dismissed so readily?

posted by Sam1 [218 posts]
28th November 2012 - 13:26

like this
Like (3)

Sam1 wrote:

Inappropriate analogy. Remove the cause for the gripe, so that it helps the conversation move on. And its illegal, so it further drives drivers AND pedestrians AND some other cyclists, crazy, and totally weakens the cycling side of the debate.

Why do some people feel that an action that breaks the law, should be dismissed so readily?

Remove the gripe and it'll be replaced by another one as a way of transferring blame to support some people's anti-cycling attitude, not wearing a hi-vis perhaps, despite it not being a legal requirement. There's an abundance of drivers on their phones and that action has far more potential to cause someone else harm than RLJs yet no-one tars responsible drivers with that brush.

I can't remember who said it, but I saw a quote once along the lines of "once you decide you don't like someone, it's very easy to find reasons not to like them."

It's not about sides, there are idiots on bikes and idiots in cars. The most potential for harm is from idiots in cars on innocent cyclists, so that's what needs addressing.

CraigS's picture

posted by CraigS [135 posts]
28th November 2012 - 15:02

like this
Like (2)

@Sam1 - I didn't say it did - I merely pointed out that it wasn't really relevant to the news story.

FWIW, I don't RLJ.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3108 posts]
28th November 2012 - 15:02

like this
Like (2)

Wow Cycling & walking is good for you.....

posted by leedgreen [28 posts]
28th November 2012 - 16:41

like this
Like (0)

“All activities carry a risk,” Dr Rutter explained. “For some reason there seems to be strong focus on the risk of injury associated with cycling.

“Clearly, when deaths to takes place that's tragic, and we need to do all we can to avoid them. But I think there is a perception that cycling is much more dangerous than it really is.

At last, some form of perspective from an educated person. As I have said on a few previous posts where Road CC have seemed to focus on the negative, cycling is one of the safest forms of travel. Pedestrians are 4 times more at risk of death than cyclists,and motorists 8 times more. Information can be found on Google. Agreed it is a percentage of those engaged in the activity, but numbers haven't risen significantly in relation to the increase in cycling. Although I can't find statistics that state the death rate from obesity, death rates from circulatory desease (which might be caused from obesity) in 2011 was 140,000! The time has come to undo previous Governments focus on the car and invest in cycle safe routes.

posted by Andyd64 [13 posts]
28th November 2012 - 18:13

like this
Like (3)

Looking at comments appending this story on other outlets is predictably depressing. The whole 'tested and licensed' thing is cropping up more and more (though presumably these same people would baulk at the necessary establishment of a new government agency for monitoring, testing, issuing etc.).

Let's not kid ourselves about any 'cycling revolution'. The standard direction of discourse in this country remains firmly anti-cyclist.

Ghedebrav's picture

posted by Ghedebrav [1091 posts]
28th November 2012 - 20:18

like this
Like (2)

I am a very keen cyclist who tries to find every way possible to use my bike over the car.
Also I take great pride in the way I drive and ride, neither of these ways of transport gives me the right to jump lights. We as cyclists should be riding sensibly and safely (this doesn't mean we have to ride slowly and get pushed into the gutter by inconsiderate drivers who for some reason are thick and cant balance on two wheels, I assume thats why so many get annoyed by cyclists).
Grumble over I negotiate around cars effortlessly whilst riding and when driving give cyclists plenty of room for their safety. We should all be throwing the book at law breaking wreckless idiots. But most of all show cycling as an enjoyable law abiding form of transport so no car driver can complain....
Maybe then we could start to convert a few car drivers.
Wink

Live to Ride, 'cycling a real sport'

posted by shaun finnis [24 posts]
28th November 2012 - 20:40

like this
Like (3)

Andyd64 wrote:
Pedestrians are 4 times more at risk of death than cyclists,and motorists 8 times more. Information can be found on Google.

Nope, not finding quite those numbers Sad Any ideas what search terms? Or why the pedestrian figure is so high?

posted by a.jumper [698 posts]
28th November 2012 - 21:56

like this
Like (2)

For every RLJ cyclist I see, there's a red light running motorist. Let's not beat ourselves up over it, its a behaviour common to road users, including pedestrians.

posted by drmatthewhardy [305 posts]
29th November 2012 - 9:02

like this
Like (3)

a.jumper wrote:
Andyd64 wrote:
Pedestrians are 4 times more at risk of death than cyclists,and motorists 8 times more. Information can be found on Google.

Nope, not finding quite those numbers Sad Any ideas what search terms? Or why the pedestrian figure is so high?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/oct/28/mortality-statistics...

posted by Andyd64 [13 posts]
29th November 2012 - 10:41

like this
Like (2)

a.jumper wrote:
Andyd64 wrote:
Pedestrians are 4 times more at risk of death than cyclists,and motorists 8 times more. Information can be found on Google.

Nope, not finding quite those numbers Sad Any ideas what search terms? Or why the pedestrian figure is so high?

I have sent a link but they are reviewing it to ensure it isn't spam. It is a link from the Guardian web site under news and datablog

posted by Andyd64 [13 posts]
29th November 2012 - 10:43

like this
Like (2)

Thanks!

posted by a.jumper [698 posts]
29th November 2012 - 12:14

like this
Like (2)

I was discussing this with colleagues at work yesterday. They immediately hit back with 'of course all cyclists jump red lights and ride on the pavement'.

My reply was 'So are you saying that car drivers never go through red lights? What about mobile phone use?' I then told them about my cycle ride back from Holborn to Paddington where I'd seen one cyclist jump two red lights in a row (I managed to catch him even though I waited for the green) but saw three taxis and two cars go through red lights on the same trip.

If you believe Sport England's data, that 11% of the UK population cycle regularly, that's about 6.5 million people on two wheels. The 111 fatalities and approx 3000 injuries required a hospital stay is a relatively small proportion but the reality is that most potential cyclists find traffic volumes and speeds intimidating – they just don't feel safe.

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
29th November 2012 - 19:17

like this
Like (4)