Walking and cycling give cities economic advantage, study finds


Cities have today been urged to improve support for walking and cycling, after research found urban areas with physically active residents are more economically competitive.

Bodies including the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), business consultants KPMG and campaigners Sustrans joined with Bristol mayor George Ferguson today to raise pressure on UK cities to prioritise keeping their populations active.

A report published by Active Living Research, University of California, found cities with physically active populations saw increased productivity, improved school performance, higher property values and improved health and wellbeing.

The Active Cities study from Nike found making metropolitan areas better for walking could boost footfall and trading by 40%, while pedestrian and cycling interventions in the UK deliver an average return of £19 for every £1 invested.

Bristol was named one of nine cities around the world that has successfully embedded physical activity into its core strategies, with others featured including New York and Rio de Janeiro.

The report said cities could boost activity by keeping street lights on, allowing parks and sports centres to open late and opening up school fields to the public.

Sustrans health director, Philip Insall, said: ‘The relationship between physical activity and economic performance has been clear for years, but this research shows active cities are healthier, wealthier, safer, greener and more cohesive. Not surprisingly, the people who live in them are happier.’

Chad Spoon, part of the research team at Active Living Research, University of California, said: ‘A city’s ability to compete depends on an active population. The research is clear on this – it shows how an active city can be a low-cost, high-return investment.’

George Ferguson said it was ‘vitally important’ to promote walking and cycling for shorter journeys, something he was expecting to see ‘increase even further’ in Bristol.

‘By encouraging more people to walk and cycle around the city we can make this city a healthier, happier and more attractive place to live, the Bristol mayor added.

Mandy Ayres, senior director for global community impact at Nike, said ‘Modern life has engineered movement out of our daily routine, and we need a collaboration from government, employers, civil society and individuals to bring physical activity back to the places we work, live, learn and play. Creating the right physical environment to give everyone a chance to get active won't just make citizens feel better – it creates a competitive advantage for a city.’

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