In 2005, six cycling demonstration towns were selected in England. A sustained yearly investment of approx $16 per person per year was used in each locality to promote cycling. (For Perth, this would be about $16 million, the figure we have suggested as an appropriate infrastructure spend to the Acting Director General of Transport last year….).
To 2009, the average increase in cycle counts across all six towns was 27%, with the proportion of school children cycling to school more than doubling. A partial cost benefit ratio suggested that for each $ invested the value of decreased mortality was $2.59. Cycling England has shown that an investment of $1.6 million would require only 109 more cyclists to use the infrastructure each year for thirty years to pay for itself. The report concludes “…If the level of growth seen across the six towns is sustained for twenty years, cycling trips will increase five fold. This will have a transformative effect on health and make a major contribution to cutting carbon emissions and congestion.”
Ingredients of the success were consistent political leadership, sustained investment over time and the joining up of projects, for instance: schools need cycle training plus secure cycle storage plus good cycle routes to school plus behaviour change programs to inspire parents and pupils to start cycling. Research showed that people between 8-14 had a high desire to cycle to school (48% preference), but less than 1% did. With most primary schools less than 2 miles from home an astonishing 500 million car trips to school are counted. Replacing these car trips with bicycle trips has a significant impact of car traffic at peak times. The UK “Schools and Young People” Programme will involve, amongst other measures, creating wide extension of 20 mph zones and experimentation with “cycle priority” routes on selected urban minor roads.
Other interesting snippets from the report:
- Cycling to work is more effective in neighbourhoods where high quality direct cycling routes to the town centre have been provided.
- Use of times instead of distance on signage shows potential cyclists that cycling is a convenient and quick alternative to both walking and driving.
- Town centres must be permeable to cyclists.
- Positive influence to get more people cycling can be helped by traffic management and car parking policies, and cycling and public transport interchanges.
- Wider initiatives, such as congestion charges and 20 mph limits on minor roads have a great impact on cycling.
- There is little evidence that broad spectrum activities such as mass rides and charity events encourage new cyclists