Cycling UK has today published a study that places the cost per head of keeping the obesity crisis in check at £23.81 per head.
That’s the cost the cycling charity places on its cycle training, which last year saw 18,500 people begin to make the move towards active travel. This year’s efforts, it has been revealed, will benefit from a £500,000 Department for Transport Grant to enable the Big Bike Revival project to run once more.
Every year, the NHS spends around £5.1bn treating illnesses directly attributable to obesity – that’s around £77 per person in the UK. The answer to this escalating issue is obvious, hints Paul Tuohy, the Chief Executive of Cycling UK.
“It’s incredible that for only £23 a person, we can get more people cycling and tackle a health crisis that’s costing the NHS billions of pounds every year.
“The Big Bike Revival represents incredible value for money, and I’m delighted that the Department for Transport has recognised the significance of the project by funding it for another year so we can get more people cycling every day.
“It’s not only the health benefits. More people cycling can only have a positive impact on our environment. Every year, it’s estimated that air pollutions costs the UK economy up to £10 billion, so it also has a big environmental and financial impact.”
Cycling Minister Jesse Norman confirmed the funding announcement today (Saturday, Feb 17) as part of a £7m Government investment in projects to improve road safety, helping create more bike-friendly areas.
He said: “Everyone should be able to take advantage of the huge health and environmental benefits of cycling.
“While Britain has some of the safest roads in the world, we want to encourage more people to take up cycling. This funding, as part of our overall cycling and walking strategy, will help local councils to make their roads safer for everyone.”
The health benefits of cycling are well documented. For example, cycling to work is linked with a 45 per cent lower risk of developing cancer, and a 46 per cent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, compared to commuting by car or public transport.
In England, physical inactivity causes around 37,000 preventable premature deaths every year among people aged between 40 and 79.
But sadly, cycling accounts for only two per cent of all journeys in England, a level that has remained static since 1989, according to the Government’s latest walking and cycling statistics.
Paul Tuohy added: “The Big Bike Revival is an important project precisely because it encourages those people who are not necessarily naturally inclined to get on their bikes.
“We not only enable people to get their unused bikes back into working order with free cycle checks, servicing and cycle maintenance, but we provide training and accompanied rides to help people build confidence cycling.”
In 2017, events were held in 136 locations, with 37 per cent of people taking part coming from the most deprived areas of the country.
As well as developing more regular cyclists, around 45 per cent of those who participated said they now felt safer cycling.
Community cycling activities were already being run in Southampton, Essex, Sefton and West Yorkshire in association with the local authorities, but last year additional cycle officers were appointed in:
North and South Yorkshire
Liverpool City Region