The London School of Economics reports on the benefits of the growing British bicycling economy

September 5th, 2011 by LSE

(click cover to download 3 mb report)

A ‘Gross Cycling Product’ report from the London School of Economics (LSE), published by Sky and British Cycling, reveals that almost a quarter of the UK population are now cyclists.

The report quantifies for the first time the full economic success story of the UK’s cycling sector which generates £2.9 billion for the British economy, equating to a value of £230 for every biking Briton in the country.

A growth in the amount of cycling events and initiatives – such as Sky Ride – are boosting the number of Britons getting back on their bikes. 208 million cycle journeys were made in 2010 meaning that there were 1.3 million more cyclists bringing the total UK cycle population to 13 million. The increasing levels of participation mean more money with new cyclists contributing £685 million to the UK economy.

The Gross Cycling Product was calculated by the LSE taking into account factors such as bicycle manufacturing, cycle and accessory retail and cycle related employment.

The increased levels of cycling also bring a range of positive benefits for businesses. Regular cyclists take one sick-day less per year, which saves the economy £128 million per year in absenteeism.

LSE found that over a ten year period the net present value of cost savings to the economy could rise to be £1.6 billion. A 20% rise in cyclists by 2015 could save a stretched NHS £52 million in costs.

There are approximately 2.2 million Britons who would, if choosing a sport to start participating in, would chose cycling; this represents around £516 million of untapped economic potential.

As part of their joint partnership Sky and British Cycling are already on course to get 1 million more people cycling regularly by 2013 which will generate £141 million. As more people take to their bikes, the report also projects significant environmental benefits. A 20 per cent increase in cycling levels by 2015 would save Britain’s economy £207 million in reduced traffic congestion and £71 million in lower pollution levels.

Dr Alexander Grous of the London School of Economics, who conducted the research said: “The good news is that structural, economic, social and health factors seem finally to have created a true step-change in the UK’s cycling scene. The growth in involvement we’ve witnessed in recent years feels like a sustainable trend for the first time. In order to build on this momentum and follow the lead, in participation terms, of countries like Denmark and the Netherlands, it’s now essential that the industry focuses on converting the many occasional, lapsed and leisure cyclists into regular and frequent riders.”

Jeremy Darroch, Sky Chief Executive,  said “This report demonstrates just how valuable cycling is to Britain, and provides a real benchmark against which to judge the many benefits it creates. It shows that with the right support there is huge potential to get more people cycling, which is good for the environment, the economy and, of course, our health and wellbeing. In our own business, where 24 per cent of our employees cycle regularly, we’re already seeing a range of positive impacts from improved health to employee engagement. Through our support of cycling from grassroots initiatives like Sky Ride to the elite professionals at Team Sky, we are committed to helping even more people get on their bikes.”

Stewart Kellett, British Cycling Recreation Director, said “This report illustrates the significant contribution that every cyclist has to the UK economy. As the governing body of cycling in Great Britain, we are the only organisation that supports cycling for everyone; from children and families to competitors at all levels including the world beating Great Britain Cycling Team. Building on the success of Beijing and the once in a lifetime opportunity of London 2012, we have an unparalleled opportunity to create a real legacy for cycling as a sport, a recreational activity and as a mode of transport. British Cycling, together with our partners, is making it easier for more people to get on a bike. This report is further evidence that when more people get involved in cycling there are measurable benefits to the individual, their family, their employer, the environment and the economy as whole.“

Ian Austin MP, Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, said: “As a cyclist, I’ve witnessed first-hand the rise in popularity of cycling in the UK and hopefully the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will add to this momentum. This LSE report provides good evidence of this increase and is a useful benchmark for understanding the ‘state of the nation’ of UK cycling. This important report shows that encouraging greater participation in cycling can bring not only social, but economic benefits for Britain. We need to identify priority areas if we are to follow the lead of countries like Denmark, but certainly schemes like the partnership between British Cycling and Sky to encourage more people onto their bikes are a step in the right direction.”

Since 2008 Sky has been the principal partner of British Cycling, with the aim to inspire one million more people to get back on their bikes and cycle more regularly by 2013. The partnership includes a whole range of ways for people to get involved; from large scale traffic-free city events, to local weekly rides, from routes and trails to courses and training. In 2009 Sky announced the formation of Team Sky, a professional road racing team which aims to be the first British winner of the Tour de France within five years.

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