Cycling on the up in UK

Growth in affluent areas most notable, says CTC

Has growing acceptance of cycling by the affluent - for both commuting and leisure - fuelled a rise in trips by bikes?

What’s an average cyclist? According to the UK Department for Transport’s just-published National Travel Survey, it’s someone who uses their bike to make a quarter of all their trips.


This everyman uses their bike for six journeys a week, totalling 17 miles and taking just over two hours. Back in 1995, he or she was only doing 13 miles and making just five trips.

Chris Peck, policy co-ordinator for UK cyclists’ organisation CTC, has been checking the survey out, and says the most interesting finding is that the increase in cycling has been most pronounced among higher earners.

“We expected that the recession, along with high fuel prices, would lead to an increase in cycling,” he said. “What is surprising is that the growth is particularly associated with those in the highest income bracket, which may be as a result of the boom in leisure cycling and commuting by bike.

“The upward trend has been most marked in the south of England, with eight percent of inner London residents and one in 25 workers in the South East and South West now saying they cycle to work.

“At the same time as cycling is increasing, car use is steadily falling. Expenditure on new cars is down by 13 percent in three years, while sales of bikes have soared by 25 percent over the same period.”

Despite the increase in cycling, trips by bike still represent just two percent of journeys in the UK and account for one percent of the total distance travelled – the same as in 2008. The survey notes: “Due to the relatively small number of cyclists in the NTS sample, results for travel by bicycle are more volatile than those for other modes.”


While people may be using their bikes more, it’s heartening to note that figures released last month by the DfT show that although cycling injuries in 2009 were up on the previous year, deaths fell by 10 percent.