Levels of cycling into and out of the centre of Scotland’s largest city increased by a quarter during 2012, according to a new report, which says that improved infrastructure in the west of Glasgow is responsible for much of the increase.
The report, from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH), also says that estimated rates of cycling in the city were worth a minimum of £4.3 million a year to the local economy, calculated using a World Health Organization (WHO) formula that assesses factors such as cost savings for the NHS and reduced mortality rate.
The GCPH, a partnership between NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Glasgow City Council and the University of Glasgow, said that “the overall health economic benefits of everyday cycling in Glasgow are likely to be much higher” since the WHO formula didn’t take account of issues such as lower rates of illness or absenteeism.
In their conclusion, the report’s authors say “this analysis contributes to the evidence base on the public health benefits of cycling and adds further weight to the arguments that promoting cycling represents extremely good value for money for both individual and public health.”
Researchers used cordon count data taken between 6am and 8pm on two successive weekdays in September each year to estimate that Glasgow residents made an 5,638 trips into and out of the city centre in 2012, up 26 per cent on 4,468 in 2011, when levels were only marginally ahead of those seen in 2009 and 2010.
The city centre zone marked out by the counters is bordered by the M8 motorway to the west and north, the Clyde to the south, and Castle Street, High Street and Saltmarket to the east.
The report’s authors, who had reduced the actual counts by 20 per cent to compensate for people from outside Glasgow’s boundaries riding into or out of the city centre, acknowledged that there were some potential variables that might affect numbers each year, such as weather or traffic conditions.
However, co-author Fiona Crawford, quoted in The Herald, said that infrastructure that makes cyclists feel safer on the road was responsible for much of the increase seen since 2009.
"There's certainly been some improvement in the levels of cycling,” she said.
“There have been a lot more cyclists coming in from the area west of Glasgow, which we know is more affluent.
"Previous studies do show cycling is more often associated with the middle classes, especially men, whereas levels are much lower coming from the north.
"But we also know there have been improvements in infrastructure coming from that direction [the west] and a lot of what encourages cycling is feeling safer as well as being safer.
"I think the momentum is building in favour of cycling,” she added. “We're seeing a shift towards it becoming more normal and less of a niche thing to do."
The report, which can be downloaded here, was formally launched in Glasgow today and its authors plan to update it with information from the 2011 Census once that becomes available.
They say that will also allow comparisons of levels of commuting in Glasgow with those of Scotland’s other major cities, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.
The profile of cycling in Glasgow is likely to receive a boost over the next year or so with the city currently preparing to host the British National Road Race and Time Trial Championships next month, followed by the Commonwealth Games which begin in July next 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.