New report on economic advantage of walking and cycling

walking in the city
9 June 2015

New research from Active Living Research, University of California, reveals that cities with physically active populations are not only more economically competitive, they also benefit from increased productivity, improved school performance, higher property values, and improved health and wellbeing.

Experts are gathering at a summit today to make the case that cities that encourage physical activity have a clear economic advantage, and the research is to be launched at the event.  The summit hosted by Sustrans, Bristol 2015 European Green Capital and Nike is taking place in Bristol. Speakers from KPMG, The University of California, and the CBI, alongside Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson, will call on city leaders to make physical activity a priority and recognise the positive economic and social benefits that it can bring.

Findings from the report show that:

  • Making cities better for walking can boost footfall and trading in the local area by up to 40%.
  • Projects encouraging walking in the UK were shown to increase employment and the number of visitors by as much as 300%.
  • Encouraging walking and cycling delivers a great return on investment. Studies on the economic benefits of walking and cycling interventions revealed an average return of £13 on every £1 invested. In the UK, the return is as high as £19 for every £1 invested.
  • People feel good about living in an active city. In a US study, 9 in 10 people said that cycling events make them look more positively on their city.

Philip Insall, Health Director at Sustrans, said:

"In an age when successful companies and talented workers have the freedom to locate absolutely anywhere on the globe, cities can give themselves a competitive edge by making a healthy, active lifestyle easy to choose. Many cities are already seeing the benefits of physical activity and are making themselves desirable to live in.

"The relationship between physical activity and economic performance has been clear for years, but this research shows active cities are healthier, wealthier, safer, greener and more cohesive. Not surprisingly, the people who live in them are happier. That’s an advantage.”

Chad Spoon, part of the research team at Active Living Research, University of California, said:

“We hope this research will open the eyes of government leaders to the many important benefits of designing cities to support active living. This includes economic benefits such as increased home value, greater retail activity, reduced health care costs, and improved productivity. A city’s ability to compete depends on an active population. The research is clear on this – it shows how an active city can be a low-cost, high-return investment.”

Find out more about our active cities for economic success.

Download the Active Cities report.