A UKIP leaflet has claimed that “Cyclists are the Chosen People” because of money being spent on cycle lanes – “paved with gold” is the claim – and that “motorists are simply a cash cow and have very few rights”.
Cyclists are “usually young people” according to the leaflet. As a cycling grandfather, I find it quite flattering to still be thought of as young. Walking the tightrope of gender marginally better than some former UKIP MPs, they ask “how many elderly ladies will get on their bikes on a dark December night?”
The solution to public safety? “Why don’t they (the council) get cyclists to put bells on their bikes?”
The leaflet finishes with “Vote UKIP and get a fair deal for motorists. The road forward is with UKIP!”
A somewhat different view is described by Alan J. Taylor, assistant professor at the University of Nottingham, on the website theconversation.com where it is suggested that Cycling could be worth as much as £17 billion to the NHS, and so is very much worth the investment.
Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert is co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling. He, and others, have based their claims on a review paper in the Lancet, with health benefits that accrue from increased cycling and walking, suggesting that “within 20 years, reductions in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes, dementia, ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and cancer because of increased physical activity would lead to savings of roughly £17 billion (in 2010 prices) for the NHS”.
In order to see the necessary increase in cycling and walking, there does need to be significant investment in appropriate infrastructure, however there is still a net saving to the government’s budget of £6 billion over 20 years.
It isn’t just about infrastructure investment, though. A major issue is the required change of behaviour of people who are used to getting in to their car to drive to shops, work, or take the children to school. The authors of the Lancet study helpfully suggested that walking or cycling to school may be easier changes to bring about than getting people to go (drive?) to sports centres, gyms and swimming pools.
The experience of a number of mainland European countries is that getting more people on to bikes also lessens congestion, so there is a benefit for the most car-obsessed amongst us.
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