The future is bright for cycling


A recent report from the London School of Economics values the cycling industry at nearly £3bn a year and believes the future is bright, predicting further growth in the years to come.


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The study is the first to quantify the sector's contribution as a whole to the economy and it takes into account: sales of bicycles and accessories; jobs in bike sales, distribution and infrastructure maintenance; and lower rates of workplace absenteeism among cyclists.


The report, The British Cycling Economy, was commissioned by Sky and British Cycling and written by Dr Alexander Grous.  Dr Grous is a productivity and innovation specialist with an interest in sports and sponsorship economics, including how corporate participation in sports can foster social, economic and health benefits. He is in fact a triathlete and cyclist himself.


It found that each of the UK's 13 million cyclists generated an annual "gross cycling product" of £230, and that, on average, regular cyclists took one fewer sick day a year than non-cyclists, saving the economy £128m each year.


The report estimated a 20 per cent increase in cycling levels by 2015 would save Britain's economy £207m in traffic congestion, £107m in the reduction of premature deaths, £71m in pollution levels, and £52m in NHS costs. Savings made by reducing absenteeism could reach £2bn over the next decade.


According to Dr Grous, cycling has undergone a resurgence in recent years, with an estimated 1.3m new cyclists taking to the roads in 2010, half of them cycling regularly. Bike sales rose by 28 per cent to 3.7 million last year and the cycling economy now directly employs 23,000 people, accounting for more than £500m in wages and £100m in tax.  He believes this constitutes "a true step-change in the UK's cycling scene", bringing genuine social and economic benefits.


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The report cited the doubling in size of the national cycle network, the rise of dedicated cycle lanes, health and environmental concerns, British successes in competitive cycling, and an increase in organised mass bike rides as factors driving the cycling boom. However, Martin Gibbs, policy and legal affairs director for British Cycling, said safety concerns – highlighted by the alleged hit-and-run that seriously injured double Paralympian cycling champion Simon Richardson last Wednesday, remained a barrier to cycling regularly for many.


Feedback from British Cycling's members was that work was most urgently needed on road layout, and on fostering a road culture of mutual respect between motorists and cyclists. "After all, cyclists are often also motorists, and vice versa," Mr Gibbs added


"The economic value of new recreational cyclists can be calculated as £320 per capita. New cycle commuters, on the other hand, are estimated to contribute £505 per head in terms of typical bicycle and accessory purchases. Encouraging all 2,215,700 latent consumers to become recreational cyclists could therefore be worth over £709m to the UK economy," said Dr Grous.


"Whilst it is unlikely that all this latent potential can be unlocked in the short term, the scale of the opportunity is clear.  In a challenging economic period, the outlook for the UK cycling industry is positive, with indications that the sector is making a significant and growing contribution to Britain’s economy, generating an estimated £2.9b per annum with strong signs of sustainable growth over the long term”.


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