Published: 15th DECEMBER 2016

The incredible value of cycling and walking goes beyond economic benefits

There is a growing evidence base setting out the economic benefits of active travel. A report suggests that cycling is worth €500 billion to the European economy, with another report calculating the value of active travel to the UK economy at £14 billion.

Man in red shirt and cycling helmet riding on cycle path through wooded park

As we await the funding settlements on both the Department of Transport’s Access Fund and the City Growth Deals, these reports spell out the value to both central Government and Local Authorities of investing in active travel. The economic benefits offered by cycling, and by walking and cycling are simply too big to ignore.

Economic benefits of cycling at a pan-European level

The first report is by the European Cyclists Federation. Highlights from the report include:

  • The current economic benefits of cycling in the European Union exceed €500 billion per year, which corresponds to €1,000 per European citizen.
  • Countries with high modal share benefit the most, meaning more cycling equates to more economic benefits. Given that cycling currently accounts for only 8% of transport the potential is enormous.
  • The biggest benefits occur in public health with over €190 billion worth of taxpayer money being saved every year thanks to cycling.
  • Cycling offers a number of societal gains such as easier integration of refugees, access to mobility and employability skills. The combined gains are estimated to be €60 billion per year.
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The report makes a compelling case both for more investment in cycling, as well as for a coordinated cycling policy at all levels of governance, including European. author: Dr Andy Cope Blockquote quotation marks

The approach used in the report aggregates evidence across a range of economic benefits, at a pan-European level. It shows that the benefits of cycling go far beyond transport or climate protection and extend to fields where the European Union and national governments play an important role: jobs and growth, public health, industrial policy and social integration.

Making the economic case for cycling and walking in the UK

The second report is from the Urban Transport Group. The report makes a wider case for active travel in the UK, covering areas such as:

  • Health: It is estimated that physical inactivity has a direct cost to the NHS of £1.06 billion per year.
  • Safety: In 2011, there were 151,474 injury accidents on the roads in Great Britain, with WebTAG estimating the economic loss at £10.9 billion in 2011 prices.
  • Economy: In England, 10 billion annual journeys are undertaken every year by bicycle and on foot. We estimate the combined economic value of these trips to be £14 billion.
  • Cities: Enhanced city centre environments have been associated with as much as a 40% uplift in retail takings.
  • Social inclusion: In England, 48% of households in the lowest income quintile do not have access to a car.
  • Manufacturing, retail and tourism: A recent study by the London School of Economics, estimated that cycling contributed circa £3 billion to the British economy in 2010.

The primary function of this report is to emphasise the significance of the economic case for cycling and walking and cycling, with a view to securing investment. As the report says:

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“For active travel to compete it is important to be able to make the economic case for investment, making active travel stack up against other forms of transport”. Blockquote quotation marks

As we continue to develop the economic case in support of our work, these reports serve as a timely reminder that the investment required to achieve the Government’s target to double cycling would be money very well spent.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to our partners at the Urban Transport Group and the European Cyclists' Federation.

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