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.