‘Invest in our happiness’: Manchester want investment in cycling, says UK survey

More than 75% of people in Britain believe that more money should be invested in cycling, according to a leading survey.

Over 11,000 people were surveyed across seven UK cities, including Manchester, into their attitudes on cycling.

The reports were produced by charity for sustainable transport, Sustrans, in collaboration with regional authorities, including Transport for Greater Manchester.

Sustrans’ regional director for the North West, Rosslyn Colderley, told MM: “The report has confirmed some overwhelming results that over two thirds of people feel that there should be much more investment in cycling.

“Cycling cuts down on fuel emissions and air pollution and has obvious health benefits. It adds value to the city, saving people 67p per mile travelled, which is £100million per year at the current level of cyclists.

“In these days of austerity it ticks all the boxes – its free, its sustainable and its healthy – meaning cyclists are less likely to take time off work and cost the NHS money.

“We have had a large increase in funding in Manchester at the moment as part of the Cycle City Ambition Grant, where the annual spend per head is around £10, compared to the national average of £3.

“But what we really need is a long term investment in cycling so that cycling to be seen not just as an add-on, but as a sustainable method of every day transport.”

Reports were also published for Newcastle, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Bristol, Birmingham and Belfast.

However, in Greater Manchester over 4,000 residents were surveyed compared with the 1,100 average representative samples for each report.

The report reveals clear concerns over safety for cyclists, with only 26% rating Greater Manchester’s cycling safety as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

And calls for more money than the national average of £3 per person currently being spent – out of a £300 per person annual transport budget – to be invested in cycling.

But eight out of ten surveyed thought that the figure should be around £26 per person.

Only 38% of residents rated Greater Manchester as a good place to cycle overall and only 26% rated Greater Manchester’s cycling safety as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

However, the report also states that serious injury or worse is rare, at about once every 3.6 million miles pedalled around Greater Manchester.

Councillor Chris Paul, executive member for cycling, told MM: “We are a city with a rapidly growing population of 2.8 million and are likely to catch up with the population of inner London in the next decade or two so we need to make the case for similar levels of investment.

“The Inner London councils at a similar population are probably spending 10 times what we spend and has been for many years which is not really fair, is it?

“The fact is that they do have congestion charging which is a game-changer that the people of GM voted very strongly against. But it’s not fair.”

Some encouraging signs from the report revealed that 77% of residents in Greater Manchester support improving the safety of riding a bike, and 75% support more investment in cycling.

Cllr Paul added: “There is such a strong return on investment even at the existing level of cycling. If more people cycle that of course increases and I’d guess proportionately.

“It would seem like there is not only a compelling business case to increase investment in making it seem and be safer for the sake of people on bikes.

“But also for wider health, happiness, economic growth, productivity and air quality.”

The average for people who have ridden a bike in the last four weeks in Greater Manchester (19%) is about the same as the average across all seven cities taking part in reporting for Bike Life (20%).

Between districts this varies between 14% of people in Oldham and 25% of people in Trafford.

The report takes inspiration from the successful Copenhagen Bicycle Account, which has been produced since 1996 aimed at gradually removing barriers to cycling.

Today, more than 45% use cycling as a daily mode of transport in the Danish capital, which in 2013 was named the happiest city in the world by the UN.

The Bike Life report also promotes cycling as a way of tackle inactivity levels in people as a cause of ill health, and lays out its plans to ‘ensure that the 27% of people in Greater Manchester who don’t ride, but want to, can’.

Image courtesy of Sustrans North West, with thanks.

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