COMMENT: It's an obesity epidemic! But don't panic...

The proportion of males in England classified as obese rose from 13.2 per cent in 1993 to 23.1 per cent in 2005. Over the same period the portion of women classed as obese rose from 16.4 per cent to 24.8 per cent.
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And that’s just in England. The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2015 some 2.3 billion adults will be overweight, and more than 700 million of those will be obese.

Worrying statistics, eh? The NHS and Government certainly think so.

In 2002 the direct cost of treating obesity was estimated to be between £45.8 and £49 million. Between £945 and £1,075 million was spent on treating the consequences of obesity. Has no one told them there’s a recession on?

Those numbers add up to what the Daily Mail would term an obesity epidemic. Run for the hills! If you still can, that is. It’s a gloomy situation that impacts on everyone, through taxes if nothing else.

But before we all run around panicking (though that might help), there is some light at the end of the cholesterol-lined tunnel. Yep, you’ve guessed it –cycling. Or more specifically, Cycling Towns and Cities.

The hard-worn cynics of the cycle industry (and the sphere of politics) might look at the Cycle City project and dismiss it as PR guff, but the initiative has given us the chance to compare an average town or city with one that has received years of investment in cycling.

Through the rigorous (and conservative) evaluation methods of the Department for Transport we have discovered that not only does investment in cycling pay, but it also returns on investment to the tune of three-to-one.

What’s that? A ready-made solution to an obesity calamity? I think a call to the Treasury is in order. And the Minister for Health. And Transport. Now there’s a cast-iron reason to build cycle-friendly features into the new housing estates required for the promised three million new homes being built over the next decade.

And the overweight masses are just one reason for the Government to back bikes. What about predictions of increased car use? It’s gridlock meltdown!

Obesity is a modern problem. 50 years ago they weren’t even collecting statistics for it. Perhaps fittingly though, there is a familiar, old fashioned solution to the problem.

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