According to figures from researchers at Loughborough University, the National Cycle Network is encouraging more people to cycle more often.
Professor Paul Downward from the University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences and Dr Simona Rasciute from the School of Business and Economics based their research on Sport England’s Active People Survey (APS). They found that proximity to the National Cycle Network was a strong indicator of whether people took part in moderate intensity recreational cycling for 30 minutes or more, as well as short cycle commutes.
Downward said the data showed the potential of the National Cycle Network to encourage people to lead more active lifestyles.
“It is clear that the National Cycle Network has a strong effect on the amount of time people spend cycling, whether that’s for recreational or transport purposes. Not only does greater access to the Network imply that people cycle for longer, but they also cycled more frequently.”
The study found that people who cycled recreationally were also more likely to take part in other forms of physical activity. Cyclists were far more active than non-cyclists, undertaking almost 30 per cent more walking and participating in 80 per cent more sport.
Utilitarian cycling (i.e. commuting) was closely linked to increased walking time and while family life was found to reduce the likelihood of people taking to their bikes for this purpose, it seems the presence of children can increase the potential for recreational cycling.
Melissa Henry, Sustrans Communications and Marketing Director, said:
“It should come as no surprise that when people have safer, quieter cycle routes near to them, they will use them. We have seen this across the National Cycle Network since Sustrans first developed it 20 years ago.
“Clearly there is an appetite from people to ride their bikes and walk more of their journeys; they just need the right environment to do it, which is why we’re calling on the government to commit to funding for cycling and walking to be equivalent of five per cent of the transport budget. Only by increasing funding can we hope to bring cycling to everyone’s doorstep, whatever their age, sex or background.”
In July, Sustrans claimed that the National Cycle Network had saved the UK economy more than £7 billion since it was first established, 20 years ago. Researchers calculated that over £6 billion of savings had come from reducing health costs; £200 million had been saved by decreasing the number of sick days taken; while reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and reduced traffic congestion were also said to have contributed.