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How local authorities can benefit from increased cycling

The National Cycling Forum has published this leaflet to describe the potential benefits to local authorities arising from measures to get more people cycling. It explains what central and local government and the Forum itself are doing to encourage cycling. It is intended to assist Councillors to develop and implement successful local cycling strategies to meet the needs of local voters. There are more than 20 million bicycles in the United Kingdom, and more people now own a bicycle than ever before. Recent statistics show that the steady decline in cycling witnessed in the United Kingdom since the 1950s appears to have been halted. Cycling may now be on the increase, and there is growing interest in cycling for everyday journeys - to work, to the shops and to school, as well as for leisure purposes.We know from experience in other countries, and from several of our own cities, that given the right conditions and support more people will choose to travel by bicycle, bringing benefits to themselves and their communities.

The benefits of cycling
Cycling is advantageous in three key areas:

  • as a sustainable alternative to the car;
  • as low-cost transport;
  • and as a means of encouraging physical activity in our increasingly sedentary society.

In particular, the benefits to local authorities are:

  • Safer roads and traffic
  • A contribution to Health Improvement Programmes
  • Improvements to the public realm
  • Reduced congestion leading to reduced costs and less time lost
  • An increase in the number of School Travel Plans
  • Increased flexibility and health for commuters and business
  • Increased demand for rural & urban services
  • Increased Mobility
  • An ability to give the public the travel choice they want

These benefits are discussed in more detail later in this leaflet, when a number of references are referred to. Particularly recommended is Cycling: the way ahead for towns and cities, a guide published by the European Commission specifically for elected members of local authorities.

Government policy supports cycling

In its White Paper, A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone, the Government recognises that cycling can play an important part in a national integrated transport system, it is a flexible, relatively cheap, environmentally friendly and healthy way to travel. But we need to make it safer and more convenient.

Both the Speed Policy Review and Tomorrow's Roads - Safer for Everyone address the safety issues.

The Government has also published Transport 2010:The 10 Year Plan. This is an investment plan to modernise Britain's transport system. Cycling is an integral element of the plan, and all modes of transport will benefit from greatly increased public and private funding over the next ten years.

In addition, the Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation strategy stresses the importance of environmental influences on health and the importance of routine physical activity in people's daily lives.

Local Government is responsible for delivering improvements

To support the National Cycling Strategy, the Government wants to see better provision for cyclists. It has already required local authorities to establish a local strategy for cycling, and to consider the role of Travel Plans in support of traffic reduction and safety objectives, as part of their Local Transport Plans (LTPs).

All councillors have had an important role to play in this process. Although the production of LTPs has largely been the responsibility of councillors and officers involved in transport issues, the views and concerns of those in other service areas will have been taken into account. If local people are to benefit from cycle provision that meets their requirements, the role of cycling in Council business, particularly transport policies and road safety strategies, will be crucial.

LTPs are strategy documents drawn up at the local level in partnership with the community and there should be opportunities for local people to comment on progress in implementing the LTP.

As part of the LTP process, authorities are required to produce a report containing an assessment of existing levels of local road traffic and a forecast of expected growth. The report should also contain targets for reducing the level of local road traffic or its rate of growth, if they consider targets are appropriate.

Community Strategies
Part I of the Local Government Act 2000 places principal local authorities under a duty to prepare community strategies for promoting or improving the economic, social and environmental well-being of their areas, and contributing to the achievement of sustainable development in the UK. It also gives authorities broad new powers to promote local well-being, which will help them to implement those strategies.

The strategy should reflect the long-term visions and aspirations of local communities.Where local people feel that the current cycling facilities (such as cycle lanes and secure parking areas) are lacking, the strategy is therefore likely to reflect this and promote action to improve the situation.

CTC's CycleSafe and Benchmarking
The CTC has launched two initiatives to help local authorities realise the cycling strategies in their Local Transport Plans. The CycleSafe initiative has twin objectives - encouraging more cycling, and improving safety for all cyclists. The CTC has also initiated a Benchmarking Programme, which aims to develop a series of best value performance indicators. The project will include working with a network of local authorities to develop and disseminate a model cycling policy.

Why promote cycling

Safer Roads
The National Cycle Forum believes that simply exhorting more people to cycle, or concentrating solely on reducing numbers of injuries, are inappropriate strategies. Instead, efforts should be directed towards creating a safer environment in which to cycle, and at the same time encouraging safe, responsible and confident behaviour by both cyclists and drivers. A concerted programme will bring down accident rates to cyclists, and persuade more people to cycle.

Health Improvement Programmes
The health gap between various groups of people in our community is getting wider. Addressing inequalities is a key aspect of Government policy across all central Departments. Health authorities and local authorities are working in partnership to produce Health Improvement Programmes (HImPs). HImPs are broad local strategies which aim to include all agencies who work in partnership to improve people's circumstances. HImPs cover the full range of health issues and should include links to LTPs. All HImPs are required to include action plans to reduce coronary heart disease, these include initiatives to encourage physical activity. Vibrant cycling strategies that meet the needs of the community can be integrated into the HImPs and play an important part in action to reduce inequalities in health.

Research has shown that cycling is as beneficial as other exercise in promoting health. Regular cycling can bring a wide range of health benefits. It can help protect against coronary heart disease, stroke, non-insulin dependent diabetes, falls, fractures and injuries (through improved strength and co-ordination), colon cancer, overweight and obesity. Cycling can also promote psychological wellbeing, notably self-esteem. Regular cycling can be an easy way to achieve the recommended 'half an hour a day' of physical activity for health. Many cyclists find that when they cycle to work they arrive more alert and refreshed than their sedentary colleagues. A review of road users' exposure to air pollution, carried out by the Institute of European Environmental Policy on behalf of the Environmental Transport Association, found that most studies indicate that car drivers are exposed to higher levels of pollutants than cyclists and pedestrians.

Improvements to the Public Realm
Cycling can impact on many interrelated issues. Increases in the level of cycling have the potential to dramatically improve the public realm. For example, increased cycling can lead to lower levels of car use, which can in turn mean less air and noise pollution.

More people cycling and walking can create a clear manifestation of the vitality of a community. A sense of community can be created as more people become aware of local issues. Increased numbers of people on the streets can also improve people's perception of security and create a 'virtuous circle' as more people are encouraged to leave their cars at home.

Tackling congestion
An important benefit to business is that any actions taken to encourage alternative forms of transport can help reduce the economic burden of congestion. Since commuting and school traffic account for the majority of peak time congestion, it is clear that business will benefit from modal shift in these two areas.

School Travel
The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) encourages local authorities to work with schools to develop and implement School Travel Plans. There are packages of measures designed to reduce car use and improve safety in the context of an individual school or group of schools. Authorities were asked to include in their LTPs a school travel strategy and targets for reducing car use for journeys to school.

Supporting Local Business
Improving facilities for cycling can also enable councillors to create positive conditions for local businesses. Cycling helps businesses by increasing travel choice for staff and customers, by helping to tackle congestion, by increasing demand for local services, and by improving the perception of security in town centres.

Cycling to work
A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone recognises that employers can play their part by preparing Travel Plans for employees which help them to use alternatives to driving to work. A Travel Plan is a package of measures to reduce car dependency for business and commuter journeys. Local authorities can support businesses by creating the conditions to allow Travel Plans to be put into action. Local authorities also have a role as major local employers to 'lead by example' and prepare travel plans covering their own employees.

Cyclists as customers
Cycling brings direct benefits to the local economy. Cyclists are more likely than other vehicle users to shop in their local centres and to support local businesses, so reducing the "leakage" from local economies.

It is often assumed that car-borne customers buy far more goods and so are the most profitable. However surprisingly large amounts of goods can be transported by cycle using equipment such as panniers. In many instances this will represent a more convenient option that carrying goods to a bus stop or to car parks located away from the immediate environment. Some innovatory schemes to increase the capacity for shopping by bike have been evaluated. These include a bike hod trailer schemes run by Chichester District Council and Tesco. Customers can register on the scheme and then borrow a bike trailer to get the goods home.
In rural areas, routes for cyclists often suffer from a lack of local amenities. Cyclists using rural routes will need accommodation, food and drink so there is potential to generate revenue for smaller local communities from this activity.

Increased Mobility
Cycling can help previously isolated sectors of society to access local facilities and services. A well developed cycling strategy will increase residents' mobility, and widen the area within which unemployed people can seek work.

One of the components of a good cycling strategy is a target to improve public transport interchanges and increase opportunities for integrated transport journeys. Creating conditions to make it easier for people to cycle to local bus stops and train stations can significantly improve transport opportunities for many people.

This is as true in the countryside as in built up areas. For example, the 'catchment corridor' of rural bus services can be considerably expanded if passengers are able to cycle to bus stops. In 15-20 minutes the average person will walk one mile but will cycle 3-4 miles.

Public opinion
There is often a perception that members of the public are hostile to improved facilities for cyclists. Motoring lobby groups can be very vocal in their support for car use, so it is easy to presume that similar support does not exist for cycle facilities. However, the evidence has shown that when the right conditions are in place, people readily use bicycles as a viable alternative form of transport. A survey by the RAC Foundation for Motoring found that 28% of respondents said they would prefer to cycle, rather than travel by car, if congestion charging were to be introduced. Widespread support for cycling was also revealed in a MORI poll. Here, 87% of those interviewed said they would like the Government and local authorities to create safe cycling facilities, and 66% of respondents said they didn't cycle because of safety concerns.

Working in partnership with other organisations - both in the private and public sectors - can play an important part in developing a cycling strategy, and in integrating cycling into other council policies. Many local authorities have set up cycling forums, which involve local cycling groups along with other interested parties such as local police and health authority representatives.

Some local authorities have used constructive partnerships in implementing cycling strategies. Southampton City Council has worked with the Southampton General and the Princess Anne Hospitals to reduce the number of cars coming onto the hospital sites. Extra cycle parking has been provided, together with inducements to staff to give up car parking spaces. Reductions of over 750 vehicles per day using the hospital sites have been noted since the scheme began.

Many local authorities already have partnerships with private sector companies to deliver transport related services and facilities to local residents. For example, Dover District Council has been working in partnership with Kent County Council, Pfizer Ltd and other bodies, including the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, to promote and increase cycling facilities in

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