Headlines: September 13th, 2006



Cash spent on local cycling and walking schemes can save the NHS huge amounts of money according to research published today by the sustainable transport charity Sustrans. In a detailed analysis of the impact of the schemes it shows that every pound spent on a route generates a benefit worth 20 pounds.

That compares to the average return of other transport schemes such as rail and roads, which is typically a benefit of three pounds for every pound that is spent. Sustrans adds that cycling and walking schemes have the added advantage of helping to defuse the obesity “time bomb”.

Sustrans says its research is timely as it comes when the Department of Health is looking for ways to get more people to be more active. It says Sustrans’ money spent on creating an environment that encourages and enables walking and cycling directly saves cash for the NHS as well as reducing other spending on preventable deaths from illnesses attributed to physical inactivity.

The benefit to cost ratio has been calculated by attributing a monetary value to a number of factors such as public health benefit, the savings to employers when staff take less time off and the time saved through shorter journeys, particularly during the school run peak periods. The costs include investment in safe routes, maintenance and losses to the Treasury from reductions in tax revenue because of lower fuel sales as people switch from cars to walking and cycling.

Sustrans says that using the same evaluation processes used by the Government to decide transport projects shows that recently constructed walking and cycling routes have a combined benefit to cost ratio of about 20 to 1. It has studied three walking and cycling routes linking schools and communities to the National Cycle Network in Liverpool, Hartlepool and East Sussex. These routes cost 1.7 million pounds to develop and build, but they have a benefit value of almost 33.5 million pounds.

With the Government preparing its Comprehensive Spending Review, the charity is calling for a radical rethink of how funds are allocated. It wants more money to go to schemes that improve health, reduce travel times and give an overall better quality of life. That, it says, would save taxpayers millions of pounds while improving public health and the environment.