More cycling means more prosperity

A busy high street with people walking and cycling and carrying shopping bags. The street is only open to cycling and walking
Good cycling and walking access brings people to the high street
A new report by think tank Create Streets shows that areas that enable walking and cycling bring a whole range of benefits for everyone

The easier we can make it for people to move around by giving them choice on how to travel, the more prosperous the UK’s towns and cities will be, according to a new report published today.

Move Free is an independent report, authored by design practice, town-builder and think tank Create Streets. It outlines significant economic benefits among a range of others that the opportunity to walk or cycle brings.

More movement, more money

One of the key points of the report is ‘more movement makes us richer’. Measured through land value, more walkable neighbourhoods are typically worth 10-55% more in controlled studies, making for more prosperous places and economies. Such neighbourhoods encourage more movement between places as it’s a more enjoyable experience.

More moment also makes high streets more successful. The report shows that flourishing town centres with the best commercial performance are ones that are safe and easy to reach, and not dependent on cars. Retail sales increase by an average of 30% following projects that improve walking, cycling or public transport access to shops.

A green bike hangar with a cycle logo and the words Waltham Forest on it
Places that are easier to get around by bike or foot represent a better use of space

Nicholas Boys Smith, founding chair of Create Streets, said: “Cars are great. Cars are awful. Cars can boost liberty. Cars can destroy it. Cars can help the economy. Cars can undermine it. It is largely a question of where. They add most value in areas of lowest density. They add least and do most harm in areas of higher density.

When it comes to freeing up our streets, our advice to decision-makers is; add choice and let people decide with their hearts and heads; think about place not just about movement; and find gradualist ‘win-win’ processes for improving places with the consent, even with the active leadership, of local neighbourhoods.”

Solving the housing problem

As well as the economic benefits, creating more places where it is easy to get around by bike, foot or public transport can also support the government in tackling the housing crisis. The report shows that almost twice as many homes can be built on the same amount of land.

Last year, 112,240 homes were built on land used for greenfield development. However, by creating places where it is easier to get about by bike, on foot or by public transport, and not limiting transport choice to travelling by car, 220,471 homes could have been built on that same land.

The same benefits apply when existing places are retrofitted to make them friendlier to people walking and cycling, creating more homes on less land.

Three young children are standing astride bikes and smiling into the camera
Children’s freedom to roam has been severely restricted

Freedom of movement

One of the greatest liberty losses of the past century has been children’s freedom to move around their neighbourhoods. According to the study, there has been a 97% reduction from six miles to just 300 yards.

This is bad for children and their parents – but creating more walking- and cycling-friendly neighbourhoods would give children some of this freedom back.

For some people and some journeys, driving is a necessity, Sarah Mitchell, Cycling UK’s chief executive, commented. “But by providing other transport options and enabling other ways of getting around, driving also becomes easier for those who still need to drive, as the roads are freed up.

“We’re urging the government to strengthen national planning policy to ensure new developments don’t get planning permission unless sustainable transport options, including walking and cycling, are included.

“Whatever the outcome of the next general election, tackling the housing crisis will be a top priority for any government and it’s essential that all new homes are built with walking and cycling in mind. We must maximise transport choice so that people can decide what’s the best way for them to move around their local area.”

Read the full report

You can view the full Create Streets report online: Move Free – How and why making it easier to get about towns and cities in as many ways as possible boosts prosperity, high streets and freedom, happiness, health and house-building