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Government statistics show no growth in cycling trips in England - though London bucks the trend

Total distance travelled annually by bike has risen 50 per cent since 2002 - but number of journeys remains flat

Growth in the number of trips being made by bicycle remains flat according to the Walking and Cycling Statistics, England: 2018 report released today by the Department for Transport – although cities in which investment has been made in cycling infrastructure, such as London, are bucking the trend.

The report, updated annually, shows that the average distance being cycled has continued to show an upward trend since 2002, increasing by 50 per cent since then.

However, during the same period, the number of trips being made has fallen by 5 per cent.

As we’ve pointed out before, we suspect that the reason for the disparity in the trends may partly be explained by people cycling greater distances for leisure, as witnessed by the explosion in the number of sportives in the past decade or so.

The data, based on the annual National Travel Survey and the Active Lives Survey, show that in 2018, on average across the population, 17 cycling trips for a total of 58 miles were made during the year.

But narrowing the sample size to just those who recorded at least one cycling trip in their National Travel Survey travel diary showed an average of 333 trips a year, with distance travelled of 1,104 miles – up 61 per cent on 2002.

On average, men made 25 trips by bike last year, covering 92 miles, and women made 10 trips, totalling 25 miles. Across both genders, people in the 40-49 age group were most likely to cycle.

The most commonly cited barriers to cycling among respondents to the National Travel Survey were "No interest in cycling" and "Road safety concerns," each cited by 25 per cent of respondents, followed by "Too much traffic/traffic too fast" at 16 per cent.

The report also highlighted findings from the National Travel Attitudes Survey which showed that 61 per cent of adults agreed that “it is too dangerous for me to cycle on the roads,” split 68 per cent to 54 per cent between men and women, and 50 per cent to 65 per cent between cyclists and non-cyclists.

Between 2002 and 2018, the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on England’s roads rose by 29 per cent, which the DfT said may in part be due to an increase of 32 per cent in the average distance travelled by bike per person; in other words, the roads aren’t getting safer.

Cambridge at 57.5 per cent and Oxford at 39.2 per cent were the top two local authorities for cycling at least once a week, while Wellingborough, on 4.3 per cent and the London Borough of Havering, at 3.4 per cent, were the lowest.

The national figures showing that the number of trips remains flat, coming at a time when the government has admitted that it would not meet its target of doubling the number of journeys made by bike by 2025, give particular cause for concern.

With investment in infrastructure helping drive big growth in cycling in recent years in urban centres such as Bristol and Greater Manchester and above all London, the conclusion to be drawn in light of the static picture at national level is that in many other places, it must be falling.

London’s cycling and walking commissioner, Will Norman, commented: “The Mayor is determined to enable more cycling all across the capital, and I’m really pleased last year saw the biggest increase in the amount of cycling in London since records began.

“London is bucking the national trend because we’re delivering the high-quality routes that make such a big difference making cyclists feel safe.

“But we can’t be complacent, and serious investment in cycling and walking can’t be something unique to the capital,” he continued.

“It must be a genuinely national commitment led by central government, and we must all redouble our efforts to ensure that people of all ages and backgrounds feel that cycling is a safe and convenient option for them.”

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed Andrew Gilligan – who had served during his term as Mayor of London as the city’s first cycling commissioner – as his transport advisor.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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