Report reveals a “healthy” and “growing” UK cycle economy

The first economic study to quantify what the worth of cycling is to the UK economy has revealed that cycling activity generates £2.9bn per annum to the nation.  The study by the London School of Economics (LSE) for Sky and British Cycling takes into account factors that make up part of the UK bike industry such as bike manufacturing, cycle and accessory retail and cycle-related employment. The LSE looked at data for 2010 to come to its conclusions.

Value to UK economy

In the UK, 3.7m bicycles were sold in 2010, a rise of 28% on 2009. The retail value of these sales was £1.62bn, with only £51m of this accounted for by UK manufactured bikes.

The estimated contribution from accessories, comprised of both ‘hard accessories’ (helmets, pumps, clothing, etc.) and ‘soft accessories’ such as servicing and repairs, from both new and existing cyclists, was £853m in 2010.

The UK cycling sector made a £500m employment contribution in 2010, including more than £100m in income tax and National Insurance contributions last year from an employment base of around 23,000 people.

Taking the three areas of bicycle sales, accessories and cycling employment together, the gross cycling product per cyclist was £230.

New cyclists

In total it is estimated that there are now around 13m adult cyclists in the UK, representing 27% of the population. Of these, almost 4.3m (33%) are classed as Regular Cyclists, 5.4m (41%) are classed Occasional Cyclists and 3.5m (26%) are classed as Frequent Cyclists.

For 2010, the LSE estimates there was a net addition of 1.3m new cyclists on the road compared to the previous year. Of these new cyclists, half a million are now frequent and regular cyclists. The estimated contribution of new regular cyclists to the UK economy was £129m, with £80m of this figure contributed by bicycle sales, and the remainder by accessories.

Cycling is a good news story

Dr Alexander Grous, of the LSE, who conducted the research, said the good news was that structural, economic, social and health factors seemed to have finally created a “true step-change” in the UK’s cycling scene and there was strong signs of sustainable growth over the long term.

However, Mr Grous said that to build on cycling’s success story, efforts to ‘normalise’ cycling need to be stepped up. He points out addressing obstacles such as safety through continued investment in better access and improved cycling infrastructure will be key to the normalising process.

Latent demand

Latent demand for cycling could amount to around £516m of untapped economic potential for the UK, Mr Grous states, with markets such as the female cyclist being instrumental to taking growth of the cycle economy further. The chief reason why women on mass don’t take up cycling for leisure or commuting purposes is considered to be the what they perceive as the unsafe aspect of cycling.

A further conclusion of the study was that the health benefits of cycling currently save the UK economy £128m per year in absenteeism. Frequent and Regular cyclists could further save the economy £2b over a ten-year period in terms of reduced absenteeism, the study estimates.

To read the full report, please click here.

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