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Thousands of premature deaths could be prevented if cycling targets met

UK economy and air quality could improve if UK cycling targets met

Joe Robinson
4 Dec 2017

If targets to increase the number of people walking and cycling are met, more than 1,300 premature deaths per year could be prevented over the next decade.

Findings have also suggested that reduced pollution levels could help benefit the UK's economy to the figure of £9.31 billion over the same 10 years. 

These latest figures have come from UK cycling charity Sustrans who, working with environmental think-tank Eunomia, has produced a new model for measuring air quality benefits from reducing motor emissions to a shift to walking and cycling.

Within the study, it found that 8,300 premature deaths caused by air pollution in England could be prevented over the next 10 years if targets to double journeys by bike and foot to 300 per person are met.

It also concluded that close to 4,000 premature deaths in Scotland could also be prevented in the same timeframe if the target of 10% of daily journeys made by bike was achieved.

The benefits of improved air quality through cycling would also help the public purse with an estimated saving of £5.67 billion and £3.64 billion to the English and Scottish economies respectively through avoided costs such as NHS treatment for respiratory diseases.

Sustrans CEO Xavier Brice used these latest figures to increase calls for improved cycling infrastructure.

'The new findings reiterate that walking and cycling has a huge role to play in tackling the air quality crisis that causes tens of thousands of premature deaths every year.

'If we are to make a major modal shift, we need to provide a network of direct protected cycle routes on roads in addition to quieter routes across the UK,' said Brice.

'We’re urging governments at all levels to include funding for walking and cycling infrastructure in their Clean Air Plans and the UK Government to prioritise investment in active travel as part of wider urgent action to make air safe again,' he added.

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