The cycling industry is worth £2.9 billion a year to the UK economy and employs about 23,000 workers, a report by the London School of Economics has found.
The figure includes the contribution made by bicycle manufacturing, retail and cycle-related employment, which contributed more than £600 million to the economy in wages and taxes last year.
Manufacturers made £51 million from the sale of 3.7 million cycles, a rise of 28% on the number sold in 2009.
More than a million new people started getting on their bikes in 2010, bringing the total number of cyclists to 13 million. Rising fuel costs, improved cycle networks, concern for the environment and the Olympics were all cited as factors for the sport’s increase in popularity.
Dr Alexander Grous, a research associate at the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance who conducted the study, said: “The good news is that structural, economic, social and health factors seem finally to have created a true step-change in the UK’s cycling scene.”
And cycling does appear to have clear health benefits too. The report, which was commissioned by British Cycling
, the sport’s UK governing body, and broadcaster Sky
, indicated that regular participants take only 7.4 sick days per year compared with 8.7 among the non-cyclist population.
This reduction saved employers about £128 million in lower abseentism rates, with projected savings hitting £2 billion over the next 10 years.
Stewart Kellett, British Cycling’s recreation director, said: “This report is further evidence that when more people get involved in cycling, there are measurable benefits to the individual, their family, their employer, the environment and the economy as a whole.”
The report predicted that a 20% increase in cycling levels by 2015 could save the economy £207 million in reduced traffic congestion, £71 million in reduced pollution levels and £52 million in lower NHS costs.