Use the money wisely, Gordon, argues a statement from CTC. The word from Godalming is that some of the money raised for the NHS by the national insurance hike in Wednesday's budget should be used to promote the health benefits of exercise, including cycling.

Some of the extra NIC billions should go to health promotion, say CTC

CTC has urged the government to spend some of its new income on encouraging more people to cycle which would improve the nation’s health and boost the chances of reaching

Ministers’ own targets for increasing cycling levels.

Richard Thomas, CTC campaigns and policy manager, said: "If politicians are serious about tackling health crises they should address the heart of the problem not the consequences of a failure to do so. For most people cycling is an accessible, affordable and enjoyable way to improve health and the government should take its promotion more seriously."

In its 10-year Transport Plan of 2000, the government confirmed its backing for cycling targets set out in the 1996 National Cycling Strategy (NCS). The aim then was to quadruple the number of cycling journeys by 2012.

Thomas said: "These targets are already under threat because few, if any, health agencies have endorsed the NCS targets. Improving health is often about prevention not cure and while extra funds for the NHS are essential, of equal benefit would be a healthier population in the first place."

According to the National Heart Foundation, just 30 minutes of moderate cycling, five times a week, halves the risk of heart attack.

Regular cyclists typically enjoy the fitness level of someone ten years younger and cyclists are also exposed to significantly lower levels of pollutants than car drivers and passengers. Fit workers are more productive, take fewer days off and are rarely late because they are not stuck in traffic jams, said Thomas.

"Cyclists reduce the burden on the NHS."

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