Growth in cycling can deliver £250m in annual health economic benefits

A new Transport for London (TfL) health action plan highlights the consequences of inactivity and motor traffic pollution, while emphasising the gains from increased cycling and walking.

LCC welcomes the recognition given to the gains from active travel and urges local authorities – which now have responsibility for health – to embrace our call for roads that are as safe and inviting for cycling as those in Holland.

The TfL plan says that "the expected growth of cycling up to 2026 is estimated to deliver £250m in health economic benefits annually." The health gain from switching from car to bike for commuting for an individual is estimated at 3-14 additional years' life expectancy. Monetising the potential gains from both increased walking and cycling (by switching from car use for short journeys) in London is calculated at £2 billion each year in health economic benefits (p25 of action plan).

The plan provides estimates for the use of transport by 2031. It expects a 6% reduction of time spent in cars, with this switch transferring to cycling (3%), train/tube (2%) and bus (1%).    

On the negative side the plan spells out some of the costs of motoring and inactivity. The social cost of road traffic noise is put at £7bn-£10bn per year; in 2008 there were an estimated 4000 ‘deaths brought forward’ due to exposure to small particles from vehicle exhausts; obesity costs London more than £4bn per year; 63% of NOx, which causes photochemical smog, is believed to come from ground-based transport.  

London Cycling Commissioner, Sir Peter Hendy, says: “London’s transport system has a highly significant role to play in helping to tackle these major public health issues."