A new report says the United Kingdom saves about £1 million a day due to the use of pedestrian and bike-friendly paths. Researchers studied the economic impact of the National Cycle Network, which was launched 20 years ago. It links major cities and towns throughout the United Kingdom. The scientists found that it has generated a number of benefits.
Obesity has been reduced because the network makes biking easier. About £6 billion in healthcare costs have been avoided because of the reduction in obesity. The increase in biking also has helped businesses reduce the number of sick days their employees have taken, so they have saved about £200 million. About 30 million car trips have been subtracted from the overall transit systems because of the number of riders using the network.
All together, the benefits provided by the network equal about £7 billion of value. According to the research, over the life of the network, that has worked out to be about £1 million of savings per day.
“When we launched the National Cycle Network in 1995 we wanted to show both the huge potential and the enormous benefits of people being able to choose to make healthy journeys. The figures speak for themselves – we have demonstrated beyond doubt that many more people walking and cycling is good for our health, and it’s smarter for our economy,” explained one of the administrators.
One thing the research apparently did not address was mental health. Regular cardiovascular exercise can help reduce the severity of both depression and anxiety as well. Yet another benefit that we probably don't appreciate enough.
Also, exercising outdoors may increase the mental health benefits, particularly if one is exercising in open, green spaces.
One thing that was also left out is fun. In developed, modern cultures, it is very common for people to spend too much time watching television and interacting with online media while they are indoors. Being outdoors can be more enjoyable, and can reduce stress. So the health benefits of the network are most likely not limited to physical ones.
Image Credit: SusTrans