7% surge in Cycle Network journeys

This Is Lancashire: Commuters make their way on bicycles through London's Hyde Park Commuters make their way on bicycles through London's Hyde Park

An extra 50 million journeys were made on the National Cycle Network last year.

Walkers and cyclists made 748 million trips on the network in 2013 - a 7% rise on the figure for 2012, according to a report by sustainable transport charity Sustrans.

It said the increase delivered an overall benefit of £1 billion to the UK economy.

This included:

:: £803 million health benefits derived from physical activity;

:: Potential fuel savings for individuals valued at almost £215 million;

:: £25 million worth of potential carbon saving as a result of journeys made solely on foot or by bike.

Sustrans said more than a third of users of the cycle network could have driven but chose not to, helping to ease congestion by saving 157 million car journeys.

It added that traffic-free walking and cycling routes often generate 10 times more than they cost in less than 10 years - a much higher return on investment than other forms of transport.

Sustrans is calling on governments to recognise the economic benefits of cycling and walking and dedicate £10 per head each year to help turn the tide on rising levels of physical inactivity.

The charity's report showed that older people accounted for around 10% of journeys made on the network last year, with 55% o f pedestrians aged 65 or over and 57% of cyclists in this age group feeling that the network helped them meet new people.

More than 285 million of the journeys last year were made by women, with 75% of them saying the network helped them increase levels of physical activity.

Of the trips taken by women, 25% were commuting journeys and 42% were for recreation.

Research indicates that women aged 45-54 are using the walking and cycling routes the most.

Sustrans chief executive Malcolm Shepherd said: "Official data shows levels of cycling and walking to be in long-term decline, but year on year we are seeing increases in the number of people taking to the National Cycle Network both by bike and foot.

"The rise in the number of people using the network shows that there is a demand for safe, convenient and welcoming walking and cycling routes. But too many people still feel threatened by traffic danger on the roads."

He went on: "Governments must match this demand with dedicated funding to walking and cycling and by reducing traffic speeds on our roads to create the kind of environment which encourages people to leave the car at home.

"Walking and cycling has the potential to be a silver bullet for the UK's health as well as delivering billions of pounds in economic benefits but we urgently need safer roads to make this happen."

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We are absolutely committed to improving safety for cyclists, which is why we have doubled cycle funding to £374 million.

"This money, which with match-funding will top £622 million, is helping to deliver safer junctions and roads, improved cycle links, better safety training in schools and more cycle parking.

"But we are going further. Last week we announced an extra £130 million to support cycle networks in towns and cities across England and Wales and £15 million to triple the number of cycle parking spaces at railway stations."

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