A bicycle-friendly Harrow will be good for the economy, the environment and people’s health and happiness. If it is easy to cycle in Harrow it will be easy for people to visit local high streets, school run congestion will be reduced, and children will be able to explore their neighbourhoods independently, as they do in the Netherlands. Motorists and bus passengers will benefit from reduced congestion even if they do not cycle themselves. The reduction in traffic-related noise and pollution will make Harrow a more pleasant place to live.
Harrow council has a public health duty to encourage active travel, and the only way to do so effectively is to design for cycling in every road scheme and every other aspect of planning the built environment.
Good cycle facilities will benefit everyone in Harrow, whether or not they currently cycle or intend to cycle.
Cycling will improve people’s health
Almost one tenth of Harrow’s residents suffer from diabetes, and Harrow has one of the highest levels of diabetes in London. Physical inactivity is a major cause of type 2 diabetes and other health problems such as heart disease and many cancers. Cycling will help tackle this epidemic by making active travel easy, and will save the NHS money.
Cycling will regenerate high streets
Many cities have found that building cycle paths and improving cycle parking on high streets is good for retail. Why is this? A high street with more cycling and less motor traffic is cleaner, quieter and more attractive to visit. Cycle paths protected from motor traffic allow people to cycle at a relaxed pace and browse shops, and it is easy to provide sufficient parking near the shops for customers arriving by bike than by car. In the Waltham Forest mini-Holland scheme, removal of cars from Orford Road, a local high street, has encouraged people to visit the street and previously boarded up shops have reopened.
Cycling will ease congestion
Bicycles use less road space than cars to transport the same number of people, so converting a motor traffic lane to a cycle path can enable it to carry many more people. This why towns with high levels of cycling tend to have low traffic congestion. However, it is essential that the cycle network is direct, convenient and safe.
Cycling will reduce pressure on parking spaces
Parking spaces are in high demand in many parts of Harrow, which can be a source of frustration and can restrict people’s ability to travel. More cycling means more parking spaces for those who have no alternative but to drive.
Cycling will help children to be healthier
In Denmark and the Netherlands the majority of children walk or cycle to school. They have a greater level of independence than British children and are happier. They exercise of cycling is good for their health and may also help them to concentrate at school. Children in Harrow deserve a healthy, happy start in life, which means they must have safe, convenient routes to school that are protected from motor traffic.
Cycling will benefit older people, disadvantaged people and those with disabilities
Physical activity is essential for health, but many people do not have time to take part in formal exercise, or may not feel ‘sport’ is for them. Cycling is a form of everyday physical activity that anyone can do (as long as cycle facilities are good) and has population-wide health benefits. It is essential that cycle routes are accessible to people with disabilities and those using non-standard bicycles (with no barriers, steps or need to dismount). Cycling can help to reduce inequalities in society, by giving people a cheap and convenient way of getting around.
Cycling will save money
Individuals can save money on petrol costs or public transport fares if they cycle. Businesses can benefit by using cargo bikes instead of vans to transport small amounts of goods — they are cheaper to run and easier to park. The taxpayer will save money on healthcare if people are more physically active, and these savings will far outweigh the costs of building cycling infrastructure. In today’s harsh economic climate, it is particularly important that local authorities pursue the most cost-effective means of improving society. Doing nothing costs more than investing in good quality cycling infrastructure.