Sustrans has reported a seven per cent rise in annual usage of the national cycle network, which equates to around 50 million additional journeys by bike.
The 'Millions of People on the Move' report, published on the Sustrans website today, points to an overall benefit of £1 billion to the UK economy generated by the 748 million journeys made by walkers and cyclists.
Backing a call to invest at least £10 per head in cycling infrastructure, or around £600 million annually, Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans chief executive said: “Official data shows levels of cycling and walking to be in long term decline, but year-on-year we are seeing increases in the number of people taking to the National Cycle Network both by bike and foot.
“The rise in the number of people using the National Cycle Network shows that there is a demand for safe, convenient and welcoming walking and cycling routes, but too many people still feel threatened by traffic danger on the roads.
“Governments must match this demand with dedicated funding to walking and cycling and by reducing traffic speeds on our roads to create the kind of environment which encourages people to leave the car at home.
“Walking and cycling has the potential to be a silver bullet for the UK’s health, as well as delivering billions of pounds in economic benefits but we urgently need safer roads to make this happen.”
Among the report are encouraging statistics for use among the elderly. Around ten per cent of the journeys recorded were older people walking (62 million journeys) and cycling (18.5 million). The social impact is believed to be high, with the over 65s pointing to days out on the NCN as a way to meet new people. 90% of cyclists and 83% of pedestrians aged 65+ said they felt happier for using the National Cycle Network.
Other key stats from the report include:
Scotland's usage is up by 7 million extra journeys annually
Northern Ireland's is up by 4 million extra journeys
Wales is again up by seven per cent, a total of 4 million extra journeys.
Women made over 285 million journeys on foot and by bike, and 75 per cent say the National Cycle Network helps to increase their levels of physical activity.
Of the 285 million trips made by women on the National Cycle Network, 25% were commuting journeys, and 42% were for recreation.
Research indicates that middle aged women are using the walking and cycling routes the most, 22.6% of respondents were aged between 45-54 years old.