Cycling trips dipped 10% pre-Covid in latest DfT data

The latest figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT) show cycling trips taken in 2019 were down 10% since 2002 levels.

Throughout 2019, cycling accounted for 2% of all trips made in the UK and just 1% of total distance travelled, although it is worth mentioning the timeframe of the dataset does not take into account the boom in cycling levels seen during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The data brings together findings from the National Travel Survey (NTS) and the Active Lives Survey (ALS).

The year 2002 is used as a benchmark throughout the report, with the data showing the average number of miles cycled per person decreased in 2019 on previous years, but has generally increased since 2002, with the number of cycling trips and stages remaining broadly similar over this period.

In 2019, people cycled a total of 964 million stages (where cycling is one ‘stage’ of a journey). The average person made 16 cycling trips (a one-way course of travel) and 17 cycling stages, cycling a total of 54 miles. The average person spent around seven minutes a week travelling by bike, with cycling making up 2% of all their trips and covering 1% of their total distance by cycling.

The data also revealed that men cycled three times as much as women in 2019, averaging 24 trips compared to eight and cycling almost four times further (86 miles compared to 23 miles). Combining men and women, people aged 40-49 cycled more than any other age group.

Nearly all local authorities saw less than a fifth of their adult population cycle at least once a week, with Cambridge boasting the highest cycling prevalence (55%), followed by Oxford (40%). At the other end of the spectrum, Barking and Dagenham had the lowest prevalence for cycling at least once a week at just 3%. In fact, just 12 local authorities recorded more than 20% of their population cycling at least once a week.

According to the data, bike ownership remained the same in 2019 as in previous years, with 42% of people aged five and over owning or having access to a bike in 2017 to 2019 combined. Bike ownership is most prevalent amongst younger people aged 17 and younger, while those in their 40s also indicated high bicycle ownership (49%) in line with this being a peak age for cycling activity.

The NTS asked respondents about the barriers to people cycling more, with the most common falling under lack of interest, road safety concerns, too much or too fast traffic, and the weather. In 2020 the third wave of the National Travel Attitudes Study (NTAS) revealed more than a third of adults in England agreed it was too dangerous for them to cycle on the roads, with women 10% more likely to agree with this statement than men. In Great Britain, the number of ‘pedal cyclists’ killed or seriously injured in 2018 increased by 21% over the 10-year period since 2008.

The data also looked into the levels of children cycling to school, with just 3% of kids choosing this way of getting to class. These levels may see a rise by the time next year’s report comes around, as the School Streets Initiative comes into play in different parts of the country.

DfT has also launched a report into transport use during the coronavirus pandemic, with the findings updated and published every Wednesday. Cycling levels jumped by as much as 380% in England during the height of the UK’s lockdown, with three-figure percentage increases seen on most days since 1 March this year.

Hayley Everett

Multimedia Reporter

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