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Why is Cycling underutilised as a Public Policy Tool?

Cycling is the most efficient way of locomotion: not only is it the quickest way to get from A to B for short journeys, it is totally carbon-neutral and its health and fitness benefits will stand you in good stead throughout your life.

As I researched Northern Ireland specific data on obesity in preparation for this blog, I discovered that the Department of Health in its infinite wisdom has not published any data relating to our local population's Body Mass Indices for the last three years. If you click on the link to the Health Survey NI Trend Tables and open the sheets containing BMI data, you will end up looking at spreadsheets where the columns containing BMI data for 2020/21, 202/22, and 2022/23 show you "Questions not asked".

Seriously?! Who actually monitors the state of public health if not the DoH? I have already contacted my MLA to request clarification from the Minister of Health during Questions for Answer.

Having scrutinised the previous 10 years of data, I believe we can safely assume that as over that time the BMI trend has been flat, the statistics for 2022/23 won't be hugely different from the last year for which data were available, 2019/20. That year, 65% of adults were classified as "Overweight" (38%), "Obese" (24%), or "Morbidly Obese" (3%). In other words, two thirds of the population here are clinically classified as carrying too much weight. The alarming long-term effects of this are outlined by the World Health Organization here.

The data for children are equally depressing: more than a third of children were either Overweight (16%) or Obese (18%): almost one in five children here are clinically obese! That certainly helps to explain why so many adults here are in bad shape.

Our campaign group has been offering training and has been involved in setting up Bike Buses at a number of local primary schools. We now aim to do the same for adults through a Bike Buddy Scheme for adults, details of which are available on our website. The goal is to make people confident riding their bikes on short local errands, or perhaps for their commute, reducing green house gasses and improving public health in the process.

While we are on the topic oft getting children and adults interested in cycling and its positive effects on public health, we should highlight a hugely compelling project currently under consideration for PEACEPLUS funding - the Bangor Cycle Park (BCP for short). For those who are not familiar with it we have summarised the project on our website.

Bangor Cycle Park will create five new free-to-use cycling facilities within the underutilised areas of the Sportsplex site in Bangor: a pump-track, a BMX Racing track, an Inclusive-Cycling Area, a Learn-To-Ride Area, and a Cross-Country mountain bike trail. There will be a café and a workshop, truly something for everyone. Its range of cycling facilities will be unrivalled in the UK and Ireland.

If you agree that this would be a valuable addition to Ards and North Down Borough's leisure infrastructure, please put fingers to keyboard and let your local councillors know that you wholeheartedly support this project. Their contact details are provided in the link above.

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