Londoners show the way to fight obesity

More Cycling is the Solution to Obesity Epidemic says Health Select Committee – Opportunity for London.

The House of Commons Health Select Committee makes the following statement in its report on obesity (p.116).

“If the Government were to achieve its target of trebling cycling in the period 2000–2010 (and there are very few signs that it will) that might achieve more in the fight against obesity than any individual measure we recommend within this report.

Londoners could be among the beneficiaries. Cycling in Central and Inner London has boomed in the past decade.

A UK wide comparison of journeys to work by bike shows that London boroughs lead the country in growth terms.  The borough of Hackney ranks number one in the UK with six other Inner London boroughs making it into the UK top 14.

Hackney, beat districts like Cambridge and Bristol, to show the highest increase in cycling to work from 1991 to 2001.  In 2001 the proportion of journeys to work by bike in Hackney was 6.83% – an increase of  almost  70% from the proportion in 1991 (4.03%) and more than 150%  from 1981 (2.56%). 

The Inner London boroughs of Islington, Hammersmith & Fulham, Lambeth,  Camden,  Wandsworth and Southwark are all in the UK top 14 in terms of the increase in cycling.  The data comes from a new study by  John Parkin of the Bolton Institute, and  is based on the 1981, 1991 and 2001 censuses.

“Many Londoners have discovered that cycling is not only one of the most quick and convenient ways to travel around London, it’s also healthy and great fun. The boom in cycling has been made possible thanks to improved cycle routes, dedicated cycle maps and an increase in accessible cycle parking.”

During May and June 2003, an average of 18,131 cyclists entered the congestion zone each day between 7am and 6.30pm, according to official figures. This represents a 31% increase on the previous year – with one cyclist entering the CCZ for every 7 private cars.

During the same period, an average of 8,686 cyclists entered the congestion zone during the morning rush hour from 7.30am to 9.30am. This represents a 73% increase on the previous year.

(The cyclists entering the congestion zone are only counted on shared routes with other traffic. LCC estimates more than 3,000 cyclists a day are not included in the official figures because they enter the zone on cycle routes on which only cycles are allowed.)

London Cycling Campaign (LCC) encouraged people to get on their bikes with bike buddy schemes (in which experienced cyclists provide assistance to the less experienced), distribution of cycle route maps and other information about cycling.

The increase in cycling has been so dramatic that some cycle facilities are now full at peak times. LCC believes there should be more investment to ensure safe cycling conditions throughout the capital.