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Cycling set to leapfrog public transport as choice for commute, survey finds

Walking also set to increase – but it’s not all good news, more people plan to drive to work post lockdown

A survey released on today’s Cycle to Work Day has found that in post-coronavirus Britain, cycling is set to overtake public transport as a preferred choice of commuting, with the percentage of people who say they plan to get to their jobs by bike doubling.

The survey, from law firm Irwin Mitchell, has also underlined what any number of previous polls over the years have established – there is big demand for cycling as a way of getting to work, but what puts people off  getting on their bikes is the perception that it is too dangerous to ride on the road.

Commissioned from YouGov and carried out online on 10 and 11 June, the survey of 2,089 adults aged 18-plus found that 13 per cent of people said they planned to cycle to work post-lockdown, compared to 6 per cent who did so previously.

That put cycling in third place overall, behind driving their own car, at 58 per cent, and walking, the preferred way of getting to work for 26 per cent of the population.

Those figures represent big increases from the pre-lockdown proportions, when 39 per cent went to work by car and 17 per cent walked. Previously, 11 per cent travelled by bus and 8 per cent took a train, with cycling trailing in fifth place.

Peter Lawrence, a specialist serious injury lawyer with the firm, which  is affiliated to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling and Walking, said: “During such challenging times it’s been uplifting to see new cyclists on the road and it’s certainly given me a boost seeing so many people cycling to maintain a healthy mind and body.

“With lockdown restrictions continuing to be eased, we’re seeing a return to busy roads and traffic that makes cycling a very different proposition to back in March, when social distancing was first introduced.

“We don’t want to put anyone off cycling and are delighted that the Government has committed to making it safer, but its proposed changes won’t happen overnight. In the meantime, cyclists and vehicle drivers need to continue to champion the collective and supportive ethos we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic.

“With businesses reopening and employees commuting by bike and car we need people to drive and ride sensibly, at the right speed. Sadly, we see all too often the life-changing impact road injuries have on innocent individuals and their families.”

Other findings from the survey include:

A total of 12 per cent of British households took up cycling during lockdown.

31  per cent of 18-24-year-olds have taken up cycling, as have 30 per cent of students surveyed.

Of those questioned just over one in four – 26 per cent – said they are likely to continue cycling post Covid-19.

Too much traffic on the roads – 33 per cent – followed by a lack of designated and segregated cycle lanes – 21 per cent – were the biggest factors preventing people from cycling.

A personal lack of cycling experience put off 12 per cent, while 8 per cent said a lack of facilities in the workplace such as showers and changing rooms were also a barrier to cycling.

Lawrence added: “That just over a quarter of respondents say they are likely to continue cycling post Covid-19 is quite telling about the safety of our roads, particularly before the pandemic.

“The government says there’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to change habits. Given the survey’s findings and ministers’ pledge to increase cycling and walking rates we now hope that the number of people who feel safe to cycle increases, leading to permanent change.”

Unsurprisingly, as lockdown continues to ease in the four nations of the UK, albeit at different paces, there has been a flurry of surveys regarding commuting by bike.

On Tuesday, a survey commissioned by Network Rail to mark its new partnership with Cycling UK found that one in five people plan to cycle at least part of their route to work.

> One in five Brits say they would consider commuting by bike, finds survey

As we reported on Monday, however, Sports Marketing Surveys – the company that compiles sales data for industry body the Bicycle Association – has suggested that the profile of people commuting by bike could undergo a significant change post-pandemic.

> Sales data suggest “consumers cottoned on to the cycling revolution before the government did”

It said: “For one thing pre-Covid cycling commuters tend to be younger people living in urban areas or slightly older white-collar workers incorporating cycling as part of a commute in tandem with public transport,” SMS explained.

“However, as the lock down in the UK eases, it is precisely these groups who are finding that office presence, and therefore commuting, is not currently required.

“Metropolitan office employers have largely been the group best able to accommodate working from home,” it said, citing research from The Centre for Cities, “with footfall weakest in major metropolitan areas with a substantial office footprint, including London, Manchester and Liverpool.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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