Cycling could prevent 34,000 life-threatening illnesses including breast cancer and depression

Hundreds of lives could be saved by increasing cycling trips, according to a new study

A new report has set out how increasing cycling can benefit our health in the UK (Picture: UIG via Getty Images)
(Image credit: UIG via Getty Images)

Diabetes, breast cancer and depression are among the 34,000 incidences of life-threatening injuries that would be prevented by increasing cycling in the UK, according to a new report.

By doubling cycling trips every eight years, 628 early deaths could be prevented, according to research from transport charity Sustrans.

The research, taken from the Sustrans Bike Life study, found that the rise in trips by bike could also save the NHS £319million.

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Chief executive of the charity Xavier Brice said: “Our report provides 34,000 reasons why governments across the UK should prioritise investment in cycling.

“Every part of the country is facing a physical inactivity and obesity crisis, which is why decision-makers need to get on the front foot and tackle these problems head-on.

“'Prevention is better than cure' is an often-repeated mantra of health ministers across the UK, but tackling the deepening health crisis shouldn’t be left to the NHS alone.”

According to the 'Transforming Cities: The potential of every day cycling' study, there will be major benefits to the UK if cycling rates can be increased in seven cities in the same way as London since the millennium.

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Doubling cycling trips every eight years between 2017 and 2040 in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Greater Manchester and Newcastle could save hundreds of lives and generate billions in savings for the economy, according to Sustrans.

That increase will equate to 242.4million hours of additional physical activity, prevent 628 early deaths, and generate £21billion of savings for the economy, including £319million for the NHS.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “Cycling in Greater Manchester, like many UK cities and regions is increasing, although not at a pace we’d like to see.

“We have a long way to go before we can call cycling a ‘normal’ way to travel, which is accessible to all our residents.”

Sustrans, along with other cycling and walking organisations, wants the UK government to commit five per cent of the transport budget to active travel, rising to 10 per cent by 2025 – the equivalent of £17 per person, rising to £34.

The report sets out five must-haves for local government to help increase cycling – political commitment, a high-quality cycling network, neighbourhoods that prioritise active travel, people and businesses supporting the change of travel behaviour, and cycling being fully integrated with public transport, homes and work.

Mayor of Bristol City Council, Marvin Rees, said: “Bristol demonstrated it is possible for a city to double cycling in ten years, and we are committed to continuing this momentum to ensure we meet future goals, not least improving air quality and meeting our carbon neutral targets.”

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.