Tripling Bicycle Use Would Pump $6.5 Billion Into London’s Economy Each Year, Says Report

A report by an academic research company estimates that tripling bicycle use in cash-strapped London by 2030 would save lives, create jobs and result in an annual economic dividend of $6.5 billion. And that’s on top of cleaner air and less congested streets.

Commissioned by industry organization the Bicycle Association, the report by Wales-based Transport for the Quality of Life states that cycling in the capital could be helped to grow from a current 2% of all journeys to 14% within eight years. Transport cycling in the London borough of Hackney is already on a so-called modal share of 9%.

However, any growth is partly reliant on more support from the Greater London Authority’s Transport for London (TfL) and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, said the Bicycle Association’s report.

While Khan has pledged to make London net-zero by 2030—he recently implemented an ultra low emission zone—the capital’s transport agency has this week warned that unless the national government closes a $2.67 billion funding gap, massive cuts will have to be made to its bus and Underground services. Investment in active travel schemes—such as extended cycleways and widened sidewalks—would also come to an end.

A finance report prepared for a forthcoming meeting of TfL’s finance committee said that without additional funding from the Johnson administration, transport in London was facing a period of “managed decline.”

Nevertheless, boosting bicycle usage remains cost-effective, claims the Bicycle Association’s report, The economic benefits of local cycling investment.

“By 2030, it’s not just the positive environmental benefit of net-zero which will be dramatic,” said the Bicycle Association’s Simon Irons, “but the economic benefits, too.”

Green jobs

Khan wants to see the creation of 317,000 “green” jobs in London over the next ten years. Twenty-five thousand of those jobs could be bicycle-related ones—such as in retail, logistics, manufacturing, and tourism—states the new report quoting earlier research from the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Investment in cycleways was one of the best ways of creating jobs through infrastructure spend, more than any other infrastructure project aside from energy efficiency in buildings, reported the TUC’s 2020 study. Thirty-three jobs are created for every $1.4 million invested in walking or cycling infrastructure over a two-year period, found the TUC.

The Bicycle Association’s 32-page report claims that increasing cycling’s modal share to 14% is “realizable” because net-zero ambitions will require a shift from private motor car use to other means, including cycling.

A TfL analysis from 2016 suggested that 3.1 million daily car driver trips and 1.6 million car passenger trips in London could be switched to cycling or walking. More than half of these trips are less than 3 kilometers in length, and it is often far quicker to cycle than to drive in Central London where motoring speeds have barely increased since the days of the horse and cart.

Responding to what he called a “must read” report, London Cycling Campaign CEO Dr. Ashok Sinha said that a “large-scale shift to cycling from private car use is essential to achieving net-zero carbon status by 2030.”

He added: “Investing in high-quality cycling infrastructure will not only enable this shift but generate a huge number of new, green, career opportunities, especially for the most disadvantaged Londoners.”

There has never been a better time to invest in cycling in London, claims the Bicycle Association.

“Providing better and safer conditions for cycling helps to encourage more people to cycle,” states the London report.

“As the levels of cycling increase, so too does the demand for bicycles, their accessories and related services, generating significant economic benefits for the London economy and new green jobs.”

The Bicycle Association estimates that London’s bicycle shops sold nearly 230,000 new bikes last year, worth $120 million. The industry body operates the Market Data Service, a not-for-profit sales data service run by marketing data company SMS. Ten thousand of these new sales in London were electric bikes.

Transport for the Quality of Life founder and director Lynn Sloman is a TfL board member. Since September 23, she has also been Chair of the Welsh Government’s Roads Review Panel. In 2006 Sloman wrote Car Sick, a book with the sub-title Solutions for Our Car-addicted Culture. The report for the Bicycle Association was written by Transport for the Quality of Life’s Lisa Hopkinson, author of a series of essays for Friends of the Earth on decarbonizing transport.

The Bicycle Association said that its London-focused report would soon be joined by economic impact studies for other U.K. regions.


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