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More people than ever now regularly cycling and walking due to the cost of living crisis, reveals survey

Active travel accounted for 20% of all activity, with 3.2 million more people cycling and walking in England in 2022 over the previous year, according to UK Government

The UK Government has revealed that cycling and walking as a form of transport now comprises of 20% of all activity undertaken by adults in England, with people choosing to switch from cars as a result of the rising cost of living crisis.

The Active Lives survey, which was carried out by Sport England, engaged just under 180,000 people besides also using data from all England local authorities. The results have now been welcomed by Active Travel England and show that 33 per cent of adults took part in active travel at least twice in November 2022.

In total, 3.2 million more people regularly used active travel in England in the year up to November 2022 than they did in the previous 12 months, with walking and cycling as a form of transport now accounting for around 20 per cent of all minutes of activity taken by adults in England. This is the largest increase in any activity in a given year.

It also revealed that activity levels have returned to pre-pandemic levels, with more adults active in England in 2022 than in the previous year and travel habits seeing the biggest change of all.

> “A backward move” – Government slashes active travel budget for England

Chris Boardman, who besides being the National Active Travel Commissioner, also charis Sport England, said: “It’s fantastic that more people are choosing to walk, wheel or ride for everyday trips. Just a few minutes of activity every day can make a huge difference to people’s physical and mental health and, of course, it’s free transport, so it’s saving them money too.

“Active Travel England is supporting this increasing appetite for walking, wheeling and cycling by working alongside councils to deliver high-quality routes and crossings to high streets, schools and workplaces. More and more people are joining the movement for moving and we’re here to help put the joy back into their journeys.”

Another survey by Sport England in February also found that one in five adults are now walking or cycling rather than using the car due to cost of living increases. Albeit being a smaller survey than the more recent one, these developments surely mark a rise in awareness among the public about the cost efficiency and savings that come along with cycling.

Cycling for leisure and sport data, from Sport England survey

Cycling for leisure and sport data, from Sport England survey

Despite the interest in switching towards active travel modes clearly there, there have been many claims that the UK Government is not doing enough to boost the modal shift.

In March, Transport Secretary Mark Harper had announced a £200 million, or two-thirds cut to the active travel budget in England outside London, which was described as “devastating” by Sustrans and “a backward move” by the Walking & Cycling Alliance (WACA), making it “impossible” to meet net zero and cycling and walking targets.

WACA said in an announcement that these cuts were “disproportionate compared to those for road and rail and will leave England lagging far behind other UK nations and London”.

“It is heart-breaking to see vital active travel budgets wiped away in England, at the exact time when they are most essential to UK economic, social and environmental prospects,” said WACA. “Representing a two-thirds cut to promised capital investment in walking, cycling and wheeling, these cuts are a backward move for active travel and will counteract the tremendous progress we’ve seen in recent years.”

> England’s active travel spend 5,000% less than Scotland’s after budget slash

On Thursday, we reported that Scottish MP Gavin Newlands pointed out in the Parliament that the spend per head in England, outside of London, would be less than £1, as compared to the £17 in Wales and £50 in Scotland.

Earlier this week, calls for “consistent” funding to cycling and walking were also made at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling and Walking's (APPGCW) 2023 showcase event.

Ruth Cadbury, Labour MP and co-chair of the cross-party group, speaking at the event noted the clear benefits cycling infrastructure in her constituency, and stressed the importance of it being funded “properly and sustainably”. She also said the APPGCW was “disappointed” to learn of a cut to the active travel budget in last month's Spring Budget.

> MP stresses need for "consistent" cycling funding after "disappointing" cut to active travel budget

Cadbury suggested it was difficult to know exactly how great the cuts are but said the estimated £50 million per year is “shockingly low for an economy and nation like ours”.

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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11 comments

Avatar
Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
1 like

Well for me it started pre pandemic when southeastern screwed the timetable for our local station, so it made sense to cycle five miles to a station where there were more trains.

This weekend we pretty much decided to move though. The issue now is overdevelopment and nothing being done for either active travel, increased traffic or public transport. I cycle more than I drive now, and increasingly encounter idiots. This was the latest last week, and you can see yet more housing going up. You can see he nearly hits the reservation and then jumps the lights at the junction, it's a different red car at the lights.

https://youtu.be/ZrItMxUEqpw

The only viable option for my partners commute is driving and traffic has increased hugely in the ten years we have been here.

Avatar
espressodan | 1 year ago
4 likes

Tories don't care.
Their new calculation, on everything, is simple and cynical.
"Is this a vote winner for conservatives in general, and would some wavering voters be more likely to vote conservative if we can be unfriendly to groups they dislike".

One is good, both is better. Hence immigrants to Rwanda and no money for bikes.

I used to vote conservative, until I realised that they really are the Nasty party, it's not just an expression.

Avatar
Sriracha | 1 year ago
3 likes
Quote:

[Active Travel] we’re here to help put the joy back into their journeys

One simple thing they can do to improve the "joy" for both pedestrians' and motorists' journeys (win/win) is to reprogram all crossing "beg buttons" so that the refractory period begins as soon as the previous crossing phase ends. Instead we have the prevalent situation where crossings are programmed to frustrate both pedestrians and motorists in equal measure.

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to Sriracha | 1 year ago
2 likes

Sriracha wrote:
Quote:

[Active Travel] we’re here to help put the joy back into their journeys

One simple thing they can do to improve the "joy" for both pedestrians' and motorists' journeys (win/win) is to reprogram all crossing "beg buttons" so that the refractory period begins as soon as the previous crossing phase ends. Instead we have the prevalent situation where crossings are programmed to frustrate both pedestrians and motorists in equal measure.

Which leads to pedestrians taking chances so that the safety record of such crossings is not brilliant.

Avatar
ChuckSneed | 1 year ago
1 like

Good to see people taking the initiative and improving their health, even when times are toug

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 1 year ago
0 likes

0.08% of the of the overall Transport Budget spent on active travel. That's not very impressive. 

Avatar
eburtthebike | 1 year ago
3 likes

Despite the interest in switching towards active travel modes clearly there, there have been many claims that the UK Government is not doing enough to boost the modal shift.

And no claims that they are doing enough.  Raab the Bully may have resigned, but the rest of the tories should do the same too.

Avatar
HoldingOn | 1 year ago
3 likes

this confused me for a bit - I thought the line graph was related to the "due to cost of living", but it was showing a drop in cycling and a massive increase in swimming. Was fascinated to find out how so many people were saving money by swimming...

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I love my bike replied to HoldingOn | 1 year ago
0 likes

Discounting during Covid, swimming is continuing a slow decline (along with runniong & team sports), and cycling is holding steady (for leisure).

The kit costs for swimming are minimal, plus poor weather & visibilty isn't an issue in a pool. They save on the MAMIL cafe stops as well!

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to I love my bike | 1 year ago
6 likes

I love my bike wrote:

The kit costs for swimming are minimal, plus poor weather & visibilty isn't an issue in a pool. They save on the MAMIL cafe stops as well!

Yes, but it's always damp.

Avatar
Fignon's ghost replied to I love my bike | 1 year ago
0 likes

Thanks for bringing up swimming. A very good point.

Which leads me onto my favourite mode of transport. Hang gliding. What does the data say on that? I don't see it?

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