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Milborne Port Climate and Nature Action

climate emergency logoCleaner, greener and healthier!

Safe cycle routes are a miracle for health in so many ways, and especially now in these times of coronavirus. Consider this article in the Guardian, written by Peter Walker in 2017, which asked us to “imagine scientists had devised a drug which massively reduced people’s chances of developing cancer or heart disease, cutting their overall likelihood of dying early by 40%. We have that drug: it’s called cycling.

cyclistMost people recognize riding a bike makes you healthier. But studies have shown the impact of even a relatively modest regular cycle can have near-miraculous health dividends. There is a credible argument that encouraging bike use could do more than perhaps any other single intervention to save the NHS a fortune. Consider the evidence. At the heart of the issue is what public health experts routinely describe as a pandemic of preventable illness connected to physical inactivity. Study after study has shown far too many Britons live almost entirely sedentary lives. Research in August 2017 showed 6 million middle-aged people in England don’t even take a single brisk walk longer than 10 minutes in an average month.

This has enormous health implications, with inactive people significantly more likely to develop cardiovascular problems, type 2 diabetes, and various cancers. One estimate is that about 85,000 Britons die early each year because of this. A study in the Lancet put the global toll for inactive lifestyles at around 5.3 million people a year, about the same as from tobacco.

Health services are further squeezed by a parallel impact on the quality of life experienced by people as they age. This also has a huge effect on social care costs, as people are less able to look after themselves.

Why is cycling the solution? The first point is the particularly astonishing health improvement brought by cycling, greater so than walking or other moderate activity. This is because people are more likely to push their cardiovascular systems that bit harder on a bike, especially tackling hills or setting off from traffic lights. Public health experts are not prone to hyperbole, but it’s not uncommon for them to refer to cycling as a miracle pill.

Experts are particularly keen on bike commuting because it falls into the category known as incidental activity – exercise built around people’s everyday lives”. Peter Walker concluded his article by noting that transforming this might seem politically impossible.

Fast forward to May 2020. Some of us greatly enjoyed being able to get out safely on our bikes for exercise on the empty roads during lockdown plus the extra time in our day from working from home, and on 9 May our government urged us all to walk and cycle more and announced that extra funding would be available for local authorities to pay for alterations to the road network to facilitate this move to more active ways to get around! Plans were expected to be announced to give local authorities new powers to change the road network and designate extra space for cyclists and pedestrians.

Most of the changes being brought in around the country are a temporary response to the coronavirus crisis, but many local authorities say that - following consultation with local communities - they would like to make them permanent.

Much of the emphasis on or reporting of new measures for cycling in the UK and around the world, understandably involves cities. We will be urging central and local government to make provision for a safe cycling and pedestrian route for the three miles between Milborne Port and Sherborne, and making minor routes in our rural area more cycle-friendly, so that we can enjoy the health benefits of cycling more and help the climate too. As The Economist tells us today, 23 May, the world’s energy system must be transformed completely from fossil fuels: it has been changed before, but never as fast or fully as must happen now.

With a taste of the peace, the freedom and the enjoyment of being able to cycle and walk safely on the roads still in many people’s minds, now is a golden opportunity for the government to promote better health for our children, ourselves and the planet by providing safe cycling routes in all areas. Do join us in writing to our MP This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. on the subject.

We hope you stay safe; as someone in the NHS put it: The end of stay-at-home orders doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. It means they currently have room for you in the ICU.

PS A massive thank you from the bees, the butterflies and the birds to all those who are leaving frontages, verges and bits of their lawns uncut for the wild flowers to bloom. A joy to see the benefits for nature in these difficult times. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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