The first thing I think of when I read a post about walking and cycling is the savings from better health. I have a visceral reaction to the smell of gasoline. Even a whiff can trigger a headache. I am grateful for every quiet, nontoxic pedestrian pathway, the bicyclist whizzing by with the breeze, and electric vehicles.
News now is that walking and cycling save the UK £1 million a day — the savings in the UK total more than £7 billion over the past 20 years. These savings mainly reflect savings accruing through health benefits — according to new research by sustainable transport charity Sustrans. In fact, pointing out that inactivity is a serious threat to our collective health, the Sustrans research shows that “lack of physical activity could cause over 36,000 premature deaths in England each year.”
Malcolm Shepherd, chief executive of Sustrans, said: “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.”
Backed by National Lottery Funding, the Network reports its expanding network of cycling and walking routes create savings of about £200 million a year in absenteeism costs. It shows the excellent effect of mitigating carbon emissions by 30 million kilograms.
Perhaps I am more sensitive to the smell, and perhaps part of that is because the smell reflects facts — diesel fumes are carcinogenic, and I’m well aware of that. The sound of loud cars and traffic shakes the nervous system, aggressive interruptions compared to the sound of birds or the wind. Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, says: “Air pollution kills 29,000 people a year in the UK, and can lead to diseases like lung cancer, whilst worsening other lung conditions like COPD and asthma.”
The Telegraph article continues to point out that the paper is just the latest research clarifying the economic benefits of cycling. Mentioning that another review of 500 existing studies by academics at the University of California’s Active Living surmises that, for every £1 invested in walking and cycling schemes, the economy benefits by £13.
BusinessGreen highlights that sustainable transport campaigners call for 5% of the transport budget. Shepard continues, “To make walking and cycling local journeys an option for everyone we need the new government to provide funding for cycling and walking to be equivalent of five per cent of the transport budget.”
The report shows that to double foot, bike, and public transit commuting potentially saves the national economy £110 billion over the next 30 years. On that note, Shepherd said. “And [we need] a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy that contains a long-term vision and targets, in the same way, that already exists for our roads and railways.”
Good circulation is so much to health, nowhere more vital than in balancing the brain. Bicycling is therapeutic in degenerative patterns such as Parkinson’s — see: “Biking Benefits Body & Brain.” The New England Journal of Medicine on YouTube captures the success and happiness of a 58-year-old patient with a 10-year history of Parkinson’s. While hardly able to shuffle down a hospital corridor, he whizzes lightly with sublime balance and ease on a bicycle.
Some doctors are doing more than suggesting exercise, along with an apple. They are encouraging “a bikeshare a day.” Indeed, part of healthcare is state of mind, interrelationships, and connections. “The Fascinating Way Bicycling Brings Us Closer Together” informs us why this is so necessary. Zach writes:
Peter Cromwell, in the fascinating presentation below, shows what distances are normal “public distances,” what are normal “social distances,” what are normal “personal distances,” and what are normal “intimate distances.” “He then proceeds to show how bicycling and good bicycle infrastructure put strangers within personal distances of each other (as well as social distances). Subtly, this connects us more. It makes us feel closer to our fellow city residents and strangers in general. It’s a great video. Check it out! (h/t PeopleForBike)
Bike Safe. Breathe. Enjoy. Be Well.