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Councils way behind on hitting cycling targets

Report finds economic benefits of cycling under estimated by planners

Only 25 per cent of local authorities were on track to achieve core cycling targets in their transport plans between 2001 and 2006, according to new research.

Independent economists SQW argue cycling must be treated with the same rigour as other mainstream modes of transport if its benefits are to be fully understood.

The research, commissioned by Cycling England, shows how local authority planners can apply conventional cost benefit modeling to ensure a better return on investment for every pound spent on cycling. And it shows that relatively small increases in the number of cyclists can justify huge investments in new cycling infrastructure, opening up opportunities to build on those numbers in the future.

The study presents for the first time a Cycling Planning Model (CPM) that will help local planners to better assess the number of additional cyclists required to generate a return on investment. The model suggests:

• An investment of £10,000 requires one additional regular cyclist
• An investment of £100,000 requires 11 additional regular cyclists

The research defines regular cycling as three times a week and measures the impact across the lifetime of a project – assumed in this study to be 30 years.

The study calculates the economic benefits of cycling by considering the impact of everything from improvements in health to reductions in congestion and enhancing the ambient environment. Drawing on previous research published in 2007 by SQW it argues a 50 per cent increase in the number of trips by bicycle would generate benefits worth £1.3bn by 2015.

Government policy already encourages local authorities to include cycling in the planning process through Planning Policy Guidance 13: Transport 7 (PPG13). But an analysis of the first round of Local Transport Plans (LTPs), running from 2001/02 to 2005/06, showed cycling to be below targets or expectations with just 25 per cent of local authorities on track to achieve their targets.

Phillip Darnton, Chairman of Cycling England, said: “Unless the full benefits of cycling are taken into account we will systematically under-invest in cycling. Cycling must compete for investment with other modes of transport and this requires robust evidence of its benefits.

“We believe the Cycling Planning Model will help give local authorities a clearer sense of the return on investment build cycling can deliver. We hope it will enable them to build cycling into their thinking at an earlier stage in the planning process.”

An extra £140m of funding for cycling was announced by Government last year, leading to the creation of an additional 11 Cycling Towns and the first Cycling City in Bristol. The first six Cycling Demonstration Towns were launched in 2005. The funds are also being used to build 250 new Safe Links to Schools and to train 500,000 school children in Bikeability, the cycling proficiency for the 21st Century.

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