In austerity Britain, and with a beleaguered county council struggling to fill the pot holes in the roads, a strategic vision offering benefits of up to £112 million a year should be something to turn heads at county hall.

Numerous studies have proved the health benefits of cycling and active travel. In a world where money does the talking, better health means less spending on the NHS.  Highways England found that Danish levels of cycling in the UK would save the NHS £20 billion over 20 years. Cycle commuters also take less sick leave than their non-cycling counterparts – saving British businesses £83m annually. 

For the residents of Frome Somerset people for whom increased physical activity will have real health benefits will soon be able to receive a prescription for cycling. 

Here, the Oxfordshire Cycling Network (OCN) has a remedy for the whole county.  OCN is a network of local groups which work to promote cycling and active travel.    Yesterday OCN launched its strategic cycle network for Oxfordshire.  An ambitious 366 mile network of routes, from Henley on Thames in the south to Banbury in the north, linking homes to places of work and social centres. 

OCN stresses that the network must be built to cater for all ages and all abilities.  That means I would be confident that my 10 year old son and my 81 year old mother could use the network and arrive safely having had a comfortable experience.  If they do, they will use the network again and again, and that is how the benefits accrue. 

OCN members point out a range of other benefits from such a network.  A good cycle network will cut journey times, reduce congestion and cut air pollution. Town centres free from congestion attract more visitors, businesses and tourists – these are win-win situations, where whole communities can benefit.

Is there any chance that the £120 million up-front costs could be found?  It sounds a lot, but as Robin Tucker chair of OCN comments “it is only 3 pence a day each, and the financial models show a 7-fold return on investment over 20 years, which is 2 or 3 times better than most road investments”. 

With jobs and housing top of our county leaders to do lists, it is important to publish the map now.  The map will help to safeguard potential routes so they are not built over, and will help the councils to ensure that vital routes are included in developer plans to gain funding.

The map is the first action of a busy month for cycle campaigners in Oxfordshire.  To build political support for the network OCN will be asking candidates for County Council elections this May to support the national Space for Cycling campaign to Plan, Invest and Build high quality cycling routes.

On 22nd April, campaigners will meet outside County Hall in Oxford and urge candidates to pledge their support. “26% of adults in Oxfordshire cycle, so that’s 140,000 potential voters, and many more who would love to cycle if they had a good safe option.” comments Ian Leggett, Chair of Bike Safe.

This evening (Tuesday 21st March 2017), Robin Tucker will be talking about the proposal and funding for cycling at the Cyclox meeting. 7:30pm, St Michaels at the Northgate, Oxford. OX1 3EY.  To see the full map