Updated: Wednesday, 8th July 2020 @ 4:17pm

'Tackle obesity, save NHS millions and boost economy': Manchester biking chiefs back Get Britain Cycling petition

'Tackle obesity, save NHS millions and boost economy': Manchester biking chiefs back Get Britain Cycling petition

By Neil Robertson

What can end Britain’s obesity crisis, create a greener environment, and strengthen the UK economy?

Cycling – according to an e-petition that has garnered the support of some of Greater Manchester’s cycling chiefs.

The petition, which has more than 58,000 signatures, claims that getting more people cycling will tackle obesity, boost the economy, save millions from NHS budgets and reduce road congestion.

It was created by The Times journalist Kaya Burgess and has called for the Prime Minister to implement the recommendations in the Get Britain Cycling parliamentary report. 

Famous faces like Sir Alan Sugar and Sir Richard Branson have backed the report – and now Viv Slack, Vice President of Manchester Wheelers’ Club, thinks others should follow suit.

“Cycling brings together so many advantages for those looking for a more sustainable lifestyle - increased health and wellbeing, reducing costs and impact on the environment,” she said.

“The success of the last three Olympics – as well as various events and initiatives to encourage people to cycle – have all helped raise awareness of cycling as a sport and way of life. 

“As a sport it is a great way to feel part of a community.”

The Get Britain Cycling reports recommended reallocating investment for cycling, safer road design, lower speed limits and better cycling training.

Because the petition went past 10,000 signature mark, it received a response from the Department for Transport.

It read: “The Coalition Government takes cycling very seriously and is committed to leading the country in getting more people cycling, more safely, more often.

“Many of the recommendations in the report mirror those shared with Government by the Cycling Stakeholder Forum members.

“In the last 12 months we have allocated £107million of new money to support safety and community links that encourage more cycling. This is over and above the £600million Local Sustainable Transport Fund where 94 out of the 96 projects contain a cycling element.

"We have also introduced measures to make cycling safer, including flexibility for Local Authorities to introduce 20mph speed limits in residential areas and a process for applications for further rural 40mph zones.”

But Ms Slack suggested that changing British attitudes to cycling would be no quick fix, and that there was a lot of work still to do.

“To encourage more people to leave their cars at home and get on a bike, they need to feel as though they are not taking on too much extra risk.

“In much of Europe, cyclists and pedestrians are protected by the law and driver’s attitudes reflect that. 

“There is plenty of room for improvement in the UK before we get to that standard.”

However, Ms Slack highlighted her club’s success as an example of cycling’s growing popularity in recent years.

Since she joined the club in 2004, the number of female members has gone from two to 35, while the club’s member count has seen a sustained increase.

The club’s members explained on a forum why cycling has become ‘a way of life’ by sharing their experiences.

One user called Nev said: “For me, the biggest benefit of getting cycling would be their general health.

“Getting people to see cycling as a viable form of transport and to spend their journey time riding a bike instead of sitting in a car/bus in a traffic jam would help exercise become part of life.

“At that point it becomes easier to keep it going regularly and the health benefits start to accumulate.”

Fellow user Franks concurred, arguing that cycling not only improves health but provides a flexible routine.

“Prior to me taking to cycling two years ago I was a member of a gym on two separate 12 month contracts,” he said.

“With the best will in the world of integrating a routine of exercise into my life, all my best intentions fell flat on their face.

“In terms of time saving, it's quicker for me to cycle to work than to sit in the traffic and drive to work so it's a double bonus.”

Dave Newton, Transport Strategy Director at Transport for Greater Manchester, said: “Cycling is good for you, good for your wallet and good for the world.

“You’ll be fitter and healthier. What’s not to like about having the fitness level of someone 10 years younger?”

Mr Newton added that they are working closely with the government to improve cycling facilities, education and infrastructure in Greater Manchester.

“In April, we submitted a major 12 year cycling strategy – called ‘Velocity 2025’ – in a bid to secure £20million of national investment for cycling in Greater Manchester.

“This is projected to increase the number of people cycling in our region by 300% by 2025.”

The petition addressed to the Department for Transport,can be accessed here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/49196

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.