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Positive Shift in the UK? 23

London Bike Lane

Photo courtesy of Yoav Lerman on Flickr

Statistics coming out of the UK tell a somewhat positive story about bicycling in that country. Things are moving slowly to be sure, but the statistics indicate that the shift is at least in the right direction, as more and more people are realizing the benefits of using bicycles for everyday transport.

Here are some highlights from the statistics (see the full stats here):

  • British Cycling membership has swelled to 33,000 members with an increase of 16 percent in the past 12 months. The highest level of membership since the organization formed in 1959
  • London has seen the biggest boom in cycling with over 110% increase since 2000
  • Retail sales for bicycles have increased by more than 15 per cent in the last year while spending on cars has fallen from £40bn to £35bn
  • The reported fatalities per KM travelled has nearly halved in the past two decades (for both bicyclists and pedestrians)
  • Cycle Rates in the UK vary tremendously depending on local factors. The highest rates of cycling occur in university towns such as Cambridge, Oxford and York, with rates of greater than 20%
  • On a sadder note, in 1949 there were 24 billion kms cycled in the UK – 33% of all the vehicle miles travelled. By 2009 this had fallen to 5 billion kms, just 1% of vehicle miles

cars-bikes-spending

Graph provided by cyclinginfo.co.uk

reported-fatalities

Graph provided by cyclinginfo.co.uk

4-modes-transport

Graph provided by cyclinginfo.co.uk

The UK no doubt still has a long way to go to increase its rate of cycling to even come close to the Netherlands, Denmark, or even Germany. But hopefully these small gains are the beginning of a broader shift in the United Kingdom and hopefully the UK will reach a tipping point within the next decade.

To view the full statistics, check out the cycling info website or go directly to the source, the National Travel Survey.

James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com.

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  • Tejvan

    Thanks for posting. The interesting thing about the UK is that cities where they have made an effort to promote cycling, there has been a good return. Cities where no effort has been made, cycle use is often very low. The Recession and rising oil prices have provided an additional economic incentive

  • Tejvan

    Thanks for posting. The interesting thing about the UK is that cities where they have made an effort to promote cycling, there has been a good return. Cities where no effort has been made, cycle use is often very low. The Recession and rising oil prices have provided an additional economic incentive

  • http://www.kimharding.net/blog/?cat=9 Kim

    You have to be a wee bit careful with these figures in terms of transport. For instance, membership of British Cycling, it has to be borne in mind that British Cycling is the body overseeing cycle sport in Britain and has no interest in cycling as transport. London while claiming a “boom”, modal share is still only 2% and could easily go into reverse if infrastructure isn’t improved. That is not is not to say that there isn’t reason for hope, there is but there needs to be more of a shift to seeing the bicycle as a practical means of transport, rather than just a toy.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      Agreed Kim – by no means is this a call to celebrate a victory ;) But hopefully this is a sign of things starting to move in the right direction. At the very least, it’s good to see pedestrian/cylist fatalities drop so much in the past 20 years. Hopefully that trend continues.

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  • http://www.kimharding.net/blog/?cat=9 Kim

    You have to be a wee bit careful with these figures in terms of transport. For instance, membership of British Cycling, it has to be borne in mind that British Cycling is the body overseeing cycle sport in Britain and has no interest in cycling as transport. London while claiming a “boom”, modal share is still only 2% and could easily go into reverse if infrastructure isn’t improved. That is not is not to say that there isn’t reason for hope, there is but there needs to be more of a shift to seeing the bicycle as a practical means of transport, rather than just a toy.

  • dr2chase
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  • donaldbeg

    A quick look at the full stats for spending on transport shows that “The fall in transport was mainly due to decreased spending on cars, which fell by 4.0 per cent.” However my understanding is that there are about 7 million more cars on UK roads than 10 years ago, and the total cost of car ownership (including purchase cost, which has dropped dramatically and despite the rise in fuel costs etc) is at its lowest since the 1970′s. I wonder if this 4% drop isn’t merely because motoring has got cheaper overall?

    Sorry I’m no expert by the way! Just recalling figures I’ve read elsewhere.

    • http://www.kimharding.net/blog/?cat=9 Kim

      It is also worth noting that the levels of car ownership in the UK is very similar to that in the Netherlands, but there the similarity ends. Especially when you look at the rates of death and serious injury on the roads of children under the age of 15, where the UK has one of the worst records in Europe and NL has one of the best.

  • donaldbeg

    A quick look at the full stats for spending on transport shows that “The fall in transport was mainly due to decreased spending on cars, which fell by 4.0 per cent.” However my understanding is that there are about 7 million more cars on UK roads than 10 years ago, and the total cost of car ownership (including purchase cost, which has dropped dramatically and despite the rise in fuel costs etc) is at its lowest since the 1970′s. I wonder if this 4% drop isn’t merely because motoring has got cheaper overall?

    Sorry I’m no expert by the way! Just recalling figures I’ve read elsewhere.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    Agreed Kim – by no means is this a call to celebrate a victory ;) But hopefully this is a sign of things starting to move in the right direction. At the very least, it’s good to see pedestrian/cylist fatalities drop so much in the past 20 years. Hopefully that trend continues.

  • http://www.kimharding.net/blog/?cat=9 Kim

    It is also worth noting that the levels of car ownership in the UK is very similar to that in the Netherlands, but there the similarity ends. Especially when you look at the rates of death and serious injury on the roads of children under the age of 15, where the UK has one of the worst records in Europe and NL has one of the best.

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  • Paul

    What is the source for the claim that “London has seen the biggest boom in cycling with over 110% increase since 2000″.

    The cycling info site gives a TfL report as source for a claimed increase of 117%. However the report says it refers to main roads only, and itself gives no source for the figure. So where does it come from?

  • Paul

    What is the source for the claim that “London has seen the biggest boom in cycling with over 110% increase since 2000″.

    The cycling info site gives a TfL report as source for a claimed increase of 117%. However the report says it refers to main roads only, and itself gives no source for the figure. So where does it come from?

  • Paul

    The claim that spending on cycles is growing, and spending on cars shrinking is out of date. The latest figures

    http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_economy/consumer-trends-q4-2010.pdf

    show spending on bikes down in 2009 and 2010, and spending on cars up, although not to pre-crisis levels.

  • Paul

    The claim that spending on cycles is growing, and spending on cars shrinking is out of date. The latest figures

    http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_economy/consumer-trends-q4-2010.pdf

    show spending on bikes down in 2009 and 2010, and spending on cars up, although not to pre-crisis levels.

  • Paul

    No source is given for the claim that “Retail sales for bicycles have increased by more than 15 per cent in the last year”? The cyclinginfo site gives ONS statistics as a source, but they include no data on retail sales as such, but on household expenditure patterns. So where does the figure come from?

    No source at all is given, for the claim that “The highest rates of cycling occur in university towns such as Cambridge, Oxford and York, with rates of greater than 20%”

    Dubious statistics on cycling are very common, and that is not a good thing.

  • Paul

    No source is given for the claim that “Retail sales for bicycles have increased by more than 15 per cent in the last year”? The cyclinginfo site gives ONS statistics as a source, but they include no data on retail sales as such, but on household expenditure patterns. So where does the figure come from?

    No source at all is given, for the claim that “The highest rates of cycling occur in university towns such as Cambridge, Oxford and York, with rates of greater than 20%”

    Dubious statistics on cycling are very common, and that is not a good thing.

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