Research by UK based charity Sustrans shows that the national cycle network across the UK has saved the UK economy more than €8 billion (£7 billion). Since the network’s rollout began 20 years ago, the cycle network has contributed to the UK economy by improving people’s health and reducing congestion, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions – equivalent to almost £1 / €1 million a day.
What did the research find?
- Almost 30 million car trips were replaced by people choosing to travel on the Network, meaning less congestion, noise pollution and C02 emissions.
- People on foot and bike spend almost a third more in local shops than those who travel by car.
- The Network saves businesses almost £33 / €38 million each year by reducing staff sick days.
- The Network provides a return on investment that is three times better than some roads schemes.
How can Ireland tackle environmental & health challenges using cycling?
The savings called out in the Sustrans research can be applied to Ireland also. The data is there to show that people are cycling in greater numbers in 2017 compared to any time in the past few decades. Cycling can help Ireland in variations ways:
- Tackling Obesity: Cycling can help tackle Ireland’s obesity epidemic & save the HSE millions of euro through reduced treatment of obesity related illness such as diabetes & heart related problems.
- Improve Public Health: Cycling can help tackle various health issues such as heart disease & improve overall fitness in the population.
- Reduce Traffic Congestion: Cycling can help reduce traffic congestion in our major towns & cities. Dublin in particular could benefit with more throughput of individuals in the core city centre by facilitating more cycling compared to motor vehicles as a a bicycle with one individual takes up significantly less space than a car with one person which typifies most car traffic during the busy rush hours.
- Cut Road Maintenance Costs: Encouraging more cycling can cut road maintenance costs as a bicycle has negligible impact on road surface degradation especially when compared to the wear & tear caused by cars & other motor vehicles.
- Cut Carbon Emissions: Cycling can make an impact in cutting Ireland’s transport related emissions. Ireland’s transport emissions are actually increasing when they are supposed to be decreasing. This could lead to Ireland being fined millions of euro by the European Commission.
There are many more benefits cycling can bring to the Irish economy. The challenge remains how to encourage more cycling in a safe environment. This requires Irish authorities to invest in properly designed & well maintained cycling networks across the country.
Photo Credit: © Cian Ginty