A pound saved for every mile cycled

A campaign group previously revealed the level of savings that current commuter cyclists make to the city of Newcastle to be £3 million, annually. These savings, however, are already sunk into the city’s economy and budgets so that decision makers are blind to them. The group has now asked what savings could be made if people switched from car use to cycling, in another attempt to engage decision-makers.

Using data from the UK Census and World Health Organisation (WHO), newcycling.org has calculated the future savings, that the city is still to benefit from in the coming years. It also says that the money should be used to the most effective outcome, changes that get people to leave their cars at home and cycle instead, like building protected cycleways along main roads.

Katja Leyendecker, chair of newcycling.org, says: “Journey length is a good indicator for active-travel potential. The Census 2011 data tell us that nationally (England and Wales) 35% of all commutes of a cycleable distance, say up to 6 miles, are done by car. This amounts to over 7 million commuters who could be shifted away from car use. Newcastle, despite being a sound public transport city, nonetheless matches the national 35% mode-shift category – amounting to over 35,000 car commuters who have the potential to switch to greener ways of travelling to work. And put in yet other words, 72% of Newcastle-originated car commuters have a journey distance fewer than 6 miles.

“If half of these 35,000 car commuters switched to cycling this would result in a cycle share of around 20%, matching the council’s self-stated target. It would also save Newcastle £20 million a year the WHO heat tool tells us – using 3 miles as the average commuting distance for the calculation (6 mile round-trip).

“The £20 million is not a number picked at random out of a hat. This number is calculated using a respected and established tool developed by the World Health Organisation. Every time someone cycle-commutes it saves the council coffers a fiver or so. With 35,000 people having the distance-potential to cycle, this fast adds up. What the WHO heat tool has shown is that every mile cycled saves society £1 through its public-health benefits created.

“And this number is not even taking into account the school run or how students are getting to the universities and colleges. It’s plain to see – the benefits of a transport transition away from the car are huge. What Newcastle ought to do now is prioritise walking and cycling in city engineering and planning and build protected cycleways into our urban space so everyone, people of all ages and abilities, can feel comfortable and cared for when cycling. We have to make sure these are put in the right locations too – where they are needed most, along direct routes connecting homes and neighbourhoods to places and destination where people want and need to go.

“The day our city will be pleasant and convenient for parents to cycle their kids to school and then cycle onwards to work in ease and comfort will be the day we know we have been successful. This is an investment in our children’s future as much as in our own. A no brainer, really. The council has to show residents and the next generation that we care, and we are fit to make healthy decisions for the future.”

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