British Cycling’s Chris Boardman has welcomed the Physical Activity Commission’s call for a doubling of walking and an eight-fold increase in cycling.
A study by public health economists has found that within 20 years this increase would lead to savings of roughly £17 billion (in 2010 prices) for the NHS in England and Wales alone.
This was one of the many points outlined in a report published today by the Physical Activity Commission.
The report highlights how Britain’s transport system is dominated by private transport, that it is often easier to find a lift or an escalator than the stairs, and that young children are increasingly driven to school.
Commenting on the report British Cycling’s policy adviser Chris Boardman said: “It is clear that we need to design physical activity back in to our daily lives. Walking and cycling are obvious solutions: healthy, low-cost, and accessible.
“We know that people’s choices about transport are strongly influenced by their environment. If the roads continue to be designed solely for the car then that is the choice people will make. We now need the government to create environments that encourage sustainable physical activity.
“I wrote to four government ministers from key government departments in February about what they are doing to grow cycling - so far I have had only two responses that seem to be simply passing the buck to local authorities or their officials.
“Physical inactivity is the cause of around 37,000 deaths a year in England alone at a cost of more than £20 billion a year. The government is burying its head in the sand and the longer this continues the worse the problem will get.”
British Cycling’s Time to Choose Cycling plan – launched in February - sets out the need for national targets, sustained investment and accountability of outcomes in order to truly grow cycling. An earlier report Get Britain Cycling, by the All Party Cycling Group, published in 2013 makes similar recommendations. Today’s report echoes these sentiments.
Commenting on this, Boardman added: “How many more reports do we need before the government does more than simply make positive noises?
“We need leadership, the setting of some national targets, long term planning and the reallocation of funds to increase cycling. Getting people on bikes is a major solution to this inactivity crisis.
“With an election looming, I will be pressing MPs to make tangible, quantifiable commitments in their manifestos to tackle this issue.”