The Ministry of Health should spend some of its proposed financial support for low income people on supplying them with bicycles, national cycling group, the Cycling Advocates Network (CAN), said today.

"Anyone who cycles regularly gets real health benefits", said CAN campaigns secretary, Robert Ibell. "Regular cyclists enjoy a level of fitness equivalent to people ten years younger. And the health benefits gained from regular cycling far outweigh the risks from crashes".

Bicycles also give people access to independent mobility at low cost, says CAN.� They're cheap to buy, only need food as fuel, and have low maintenance costs.

Schemes to provide bicycles to people on low incomes are not new: A Bikes for Jobseekers programme run in Whangarei in 1997 provided 100 Maori job seekers with transport to gain stable employment. The bike only became the property of the job seeker only after 3 months employment.

Although the programme was aimed mainly at helping people gain employment, participants also generally changed� their lifestyles. A� job seeker with a heart condition lost 15 kilos in 3 months. Another gave up smoking. People in the programme started participating in sport because of improved fitness condition.

CAN says that getting to work by bike is a great way to build exercise into a daily routine. Biking to work is being celebrated nationwide on February 20 in Bike To Work Day, part of National Bike Wise Week. CAN is calling for to Government to invest more money in biking to work through such things as promoting cycle-friendly employer schemes, improving cycling infrastructure, and providing bikes for those who can't afford them.

"The $135 million currently spent on dealing with obesity and overweight people would buy an awful lot of bicycles" said Mr Ibell. "And why not put some of it into Safe Routes to Schools schemes as well so parents and children can be free to choose to bike or walk to school instead of using the car?"

Contact: Robert Ibell, Campaigns & PR Secretary, CAN, 04-385 2557,

Release Date: 
Wednesday, 13 February, 2002