Financial benefits are said to total more than £400 billion for countries that invest in cycling…
By Cath Harris
Health, fun, fitness and a better environment are among the familiar pluses of cycling.
And here there’s another: the money it saves and generates. A new report reveals that cycling contributes a huge €513 billion (£447 bn) annually to the economies of the 28 EU countries – the equivalent of €1,000 per person each year.
From the obvious – transport and environment – to the less predictable – employability, mobility and refugee integration – cycling is providing numerous all-round benefits.
Even the UK profits to the tune of €24.9 bn despite just 3 per cent of the population (1.95 million people) using bikes as their main means of transport.
The European Cyclists’ Federation report, The EU Cycling Economy, is the organisation’s second analysis of the economic benefits of cycling across the continent.
It finds that Europeans ride 134 bn kilometres every year and assigns the benefits of cycling to nine sectors.
Our environment and climate gain to the tune of €15.43 bn, from reduced carbon emissions and less air, noise, soil and water pollution (the latter two from building fewer roads).
Cycling instead of driving cuts fuel use, while bike construction is estimated to use just 2 per cent of the resources consumed in building a car. These factors contribute €2.8 bn to EU economies.
Health benefits amount to €191.27 bn, and include better mental health, active habits developed from cycling to school, fewer road deaths and injuries, and less absenteeism among those who cycle regularly.
Bike manufacture, sales and repairs, and cycle tourism, contribute €63.09 bn while towns and cities designed to encourage walking and cycling and boosts to smart technology development spurred by the cycling industry bring in €20 bn.
Social benefits and better use of time and space contribute €181 bn, and savings due to less road congestion and maintenance, and reduced pressure on public transport, total €29.6 bn. Finally, the report highlights the €10 bn in benefits from improved social interaction enabled by cycling.
While the UK’s €24.9 bn worth of gains lags well behind several countries, notably the top three of Germany (€124.5 bn), the Netherlands (€77.7 bn) and Italy (€46.6 bn), investment pledges by the Mayor of London offer hope, at least for the capital.
Sadiq Khan has promised a total of £770 million will be invested in cycling over the next five years, matching the outlay per head in Denmark and the Netherlands where cycling levels are highest.
The Mayor’s target is 1.5 m cycle journeys per day by 2025/6 aided by the completion and extension of two existing cycle ‘superhighways’ and the construction of another two, alongside improvements to major junctions. Bans on some HGVs and other lorries to improve cyclists’ safety have already been announced.
Making cycling safe and easier can provide huge benefits for us all – improving our health, cleaning up our toxic air, and helping tackle congestion
the Mayor says.
*Data/graphics: Neun, M. and Haubold, H. 2016. The European Cycling Economy – Arguments for an integrated EU Cycling Policy; European Cyclists’ Federation
Cath Harris is a freelance journalist specialising in cycling, environment and adventure travel. Read her work at www.cathharris.co.uk