Cycling generates £3bn a year for UK, report reveals

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The Independent Online

Cycling generates nearly £3bn a year for the British economy, but that figure will rise only if safety concerns can be addressed, a report from the London School of Economics has found. The study is the first to quantify the sector's contribution to the economy and takes into account: sales of bicycles and accessories; jobs in bike sales, distribution and infrastructure maintenance; and lower rates of workplace absenteeism among cyclists.

It found that the UK's 13 million cyclists each generate an annual "gross cycling product" of £230, and, on average, regular cyclists take one fewer sick day a year than non-cyclists, saving £128m a year.

The report, published by the broadcaster Sky and by British Cycling, estimated a 20 per cent increase in cycling levels by 2015 would save Britain's economy £207m in traffic congestion, £107m in the reduction of premature deaths, £71m in pollution levels, and £52m in NHS costs. Savings made by reducing absenteeism could reach £2bn over the next decade.

An estimated 1.3 million new cyclists took to the roads in 2010, half of them regularly. Bike sales rose by 28 per cent to 3.7 million last year. The cycling economy now directly employs 23,000 people, accounting for more than £500m in wages and £100m in tax.

But Martin Gibbs, policy and legal affairs director for British Cycling, said safety concerns remained a barrier to cycling regularly for many.

"If the Government is looking to get people to ride their bikes more, there's a responsibility to make sure the roads are as safe as they can be," he said.

Feedback from British Cycling's members was that work was most urgently needed on road layout, and also on fostering a healthy road culture of mutual respect between motorists and cyclists. "After all, cyclists are often also motorists, and vice versa," Mr Gibbs added.