Last week it was reported in The Times that cycling investment may not be a priority for the Chancellor, George Osborne. Together with a number of other businesses, including British Cycling, the AA, Virgin Trains and National Grid, we have written an open letter to the Chancellor stressing the need to invest in walking and cycling.
The upcoming Spending Review (25 November) will reveal how much funding will be allocated to active travel (walking and cycling) for the next four years. It is vital that significant funds are invested and here are the reasons why.
Walking or cycling to work has many benefits for business. Both help to improve the physical health of employees and walking has been found to reduce the risk of diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and heart disease. Walking also helps the mental wellbeing of employees, improving the whole workplace by reducing stress levels and saving money on sick pay. With many of us rushing from the commute to the office, then eating lunch at our desks we are unwittingly risking our health - a few simple steps in the right direction can make all the difference. Walking gives us all more time to think, a chance to see nature and enjoy fresh air. The more of us walking, the more we'll help the environment around us, improving air quality and subsequently benefiting our health.
However, we know that people walk almost a third less today, than they did just 20 years ago. This level of physical inactivity is placing a massive strain on the NHS and the public purse. In fact, physical inactivity costs the NHS up to £10 billion a year and accounts for one in six deaths. By re-introducing walking into our daily lives through the way we travel we can begin to tackle this. Walking is free and accessible for everyone. By incorporating a little more walking into your daily routine you can help yourself to feel the benefits.
The more people walking, the less our roads will be congested too. This will benefit businesses at a time when our population is growing and roads in many major towns and cities are reaching their capacity, holding up people on their way to work and goods being transported. More employees walking also helps to improve access to business with less space taken outside with parked vehicles.
We must address the issue of how we travel and investment into walking and cycling is needed to improve road infrastructure and educate us all on the many benefits partaking in active travel really brings. The situation is only due to become a bigger issue as our population increases and the NHS gets put under even more pressure. We need to act now.
The government needs to allocate funds to make sure walking and cycling is a safe and attractive option for everyone, including employees and customers. We hope to see commitment to the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy in this month's Spending Review. After all, a walking and cycling nation is good for business.