Chief Medical Officer calls for eightfold increase in cycling

photo CMO Sir Liam Donaldson has called for an eightfold increase in cycling in the UK

The Government's top health advisor, Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson, has said cycling must be increased eightfold to combat the public health crisis caused by designing cities around motor vehicles.

In the last annual report before his planned retirement this year, 'On the State of Public Health', Donaldson despairs over the low levels of physical activity in Britain.

In particular, he calls for our transport infrastructure to be re-designed in order to encourage the levels of walking and cycling in the Netherlands and Denmark.
The report recommends that: "National targets should be set to double travel on foot in England’s towns and cities, and to increase travel by bicycle eightfold; transport policy and road design should support the achievement of such gains." (page 63)

Cycling could save over 50,000 'healthy years'
The report says: "There would be significant reductions in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression and dementia. In London alone, over 55,000 healthy years of life could be saved every year. Travel by bicycle or on foot needs to become the safe, viable, attractive option for a far greater proportion of journeys." (page 60)

The report recognises that: "Lifestyle changes can make a substantial contribution to slowing climate change and can significantly reduce the disease and death that are associated with a sedentary lifestyle – a lifestyle to which the current absolute dominance of motorised transport contributes." (page 60)

Reports repeating the same message 
The advice from the Chief Medical Officer reinforces the messages from the Active Travel Strategy jointly presented by the Department for Transport and Department of Health last month.

The strategy notes that the annual cost of physical inactivity related to transport in urban area total £9.8 billion. This is as significant as the cost of road casualties and congestion costs.

In 2009, a Lancet report drew similar conclusions about the need to increase cycling to improve public health.