By Kath Cochrane

DID you know that the UK cycle industry outguns the steel industry by three times, contributing £5.1bn a year to our economy? A well-chosen comparison as steel is often in the media as one of our strategic industries. The data comes from a report commissioned by the Bicycle Association on The Value of the Cycling Sector to the British Economy.

The cycling industry in the UK does not contribute all the £5.1bn directly. £0.7bn comes from cycling industry products and £0.5 from tourism attributable to cycling. The rest comes from wider impacts: namely the reduction in loss of life, better health, and reduced pollution and congestion. The cycling industry employs 64,000 people in the UK in sales, repair, hire, delivery and infrastructure; whereas businesses linked to the steel industry employ 32,000 people.

I was interested to find out how they come up with these figures, and what contribution individuals’ behaviour can make.

These particular benefits are based on the current levels of cycling in the UK.

If my lifestyle includes 160 trips a year of an average distance of 3.9km by bike, society gains in multiple ways. My increased life expectancy will save £408 per year. My reduced chances of dying from coronary heart disease and stroke saves the NHS £28.30 per year. I will be more productive at work – with my absenteeism reducing by six per cent resulting in savings of £47.68 per year. If I have swapped my private car for a bike in urban areas society gains 23p per km not driven due to reductions in pollution and congestion. These figures are based on WHO modelling, and best evidence from research in this field. To look at them in more detail please follow this link

The Government has set a target to double the cycling levels by 2025. If this becomes a reality, and it really represents modal shift (getting people out of cars and onto bikes, or using a range of joined up travel options), the economic value of cycling in the UK will be much higher. From an investment point of view, you could also argue that cycling, despite being a mode of transport that has changed little in 200 years, is also future-proofed. The solutions to moving people and goods around our congested and polluted towns and cities must include the cycle.

Cycles make places liveable, and will attract people who are looking for quality of life. The cycles of the future won’t always be with two wheels, many will be electrically assisted, but they will pack a punch in terms of moving people and goods efficiently and at low cost, with all the wider benefits to society.

Good luck to the British cycling industry – I hope you flourish, because if you do, so will we.