A SURGE in commuters cycling to and from Glasgow is estimated to be benefitting the local economy by more than £4 million a year, public health experts say.

A report published today by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health reveals the number of people cycling in and out of the city increased by 25% between 2009 and 2012, with an average of 5638 trips by bike each day in 2012.

Improved infrastructure was cited by researchers as the main reason for the increase, although previous studies said the success of Sir Chris Hoy and other Olympic cyclists, and Sir Bradley Wiggins's win in the Tour de France helped get more people on their bikes.

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The figures on bike journeys were compiled from cordon recording sites set up by the Glasgow City Council at various points along the city boundaries to log passing cylists. The data is collected over two days in September each year.

The researchers noticed cycling rates rose sharply in 2012 compared to the previous three years. Between 2009 and 2011, there were an average of 4378 trips a day, but this shot up in 2012 to 5638.

Using a World Health Organisation (WHO) formula, researchers estimated cycling rates were benefitting the local economy by £4,348,538 a year, with improvements such as reduced mortality and savings for the health service.

However, the true economic benefit is believed to be higher since the WHO calculator does not take into account other factors such as reduced morbidity – ill health – and reduced absenteeism from work, which would also have knock-on effects for the economy.

The report said: "Given that the model only estimates the benefit of cycle journeys into and out of Glasgow city centre and does not include the benefits of reduced morbidity, the overall health economic benefits of everyday cycling in Glasgow are likely to be much higher.

"It should also be remembered the commercial benefits of increased cycling to the local economy have not been included in this calculation."

It added: "Travelling by bicycle rather than by car also helps to reduce vehicle emissions which are a major contributor to climate change."

The findings are due to be unveiled today at St Andrews in the Square, Glasgow, where researchers will also outline their projections for future economic benefits from cycling.

They also hope to incorporate data from the 2011 Census once it becomes available to compare commuting patterns in Scotland's four largest cities – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.

GCPH researcher Fiona Crawford, who co-authored the report with Bruce Whyte, said the sudden increase in people cycling in 2012 was probably linked to improvements in infrastructure.

"There's certainly been some improvement in the levels of cycling. There have been a lot more cyclists coming in from the area west of Glasgow, which we know is more affluent.

"Previous studies do show cycling is more often associated with the middle classes, especially men, whereas levels are much lower coming from the north.

"But we also know there have been improvements in infrastructure coming from that direction [the west] and a lot of what encourages cycling is feeling safer as well as being safer."

She added: "I think the momentum is building in favour of cycling. We're seeing a shift towards it becoming more normal and less of a niche thing to do."