Are petrol and diesel prices fuelling a rise in cycling? Research by Southampton University reveals a third of cyclists in the city are cycling more to avoid paying at the pump.
Petrol Pump: Copyright Ruslan Semichev,

Back in 2008, CTC predicted [2] that sharp increases in fuel prices would mean dramatic rises in the number of people cycling. Now, new research by Southampton University has revealed that two-thirds of people are cycling more frequently than they were three years ago and one-third say that is due to the rising price of fuel.

The research conducted by the University of Southampton for Southampton City Council revealed that keeping healthy and enjoyment are the main reasons for riding their bikes more, but also showed that one-third of those who’ve increased their cycling are doing so because of rising fuel prices.

The survey is one of the biggest of its kind in the UK with over 1,300 people returning questionnaires and mapping their routes. Staff, students and volunteers from the local community helped distribute 3,700 survey packs to cyclists at key points on the city’s cycle network.

Dr Julia Branson of the University’s GeoData Institute says, “The survey data not only shows us the routes people are using in Southampton and at what volume, but also people’s habits and opinions in relation to cycling. This will help the city council to develop its cycle strategy for the future.

“The most frequently used routes in the city are between the University of Southampton Highfield campus and Southampton General Hospital, and between the city centre and the Common, along the route of the Avenue.”

Other major findings from respondents:

  • 73 per cent were travelling to work – 16 per cent to the University
  • Half of all respondents took to their bikes between 0800 and 0900
  • 80 per cent spent less than 30 minutes on their bikes, with just over half of journeys less than 3 miles
  • Over 75 per cent travelled by bike four days a week or more
  • 41 per cent have had at least one accident or collision, most of which were with motor vehicles
  • 56 per cent stated they only ever travelled by bike on their journey, while 20 per cent sometimes used a car

People also highlighted ‘drivers not paying attention’ as their main concern, and most thought more off-road cycle paths were important to increase safety. They also wanted to see more secure cycle storage, particularly in the city centre.

The survey was carried out for Southampton City Council which is developing its Cycle Strategy. It undertakes a detailed assessment of cycle usage and problem hotspots in support of the city’s Local and Sustainable Transport Fund.

Frank Baxter, Travel and Transport Manager at Southampton City Council, said; “Cycle use is increasing in the city and we want to encourage it. This research has provided us with a really useful insight into what cyclists want and need.

"We are now using it to plan new high quality cycle routes and other facilities. The survey has let us know where cyclists feel most vulnerable on the road and we will also be looking at how we can make these locations safer.”

Survey forms were distributed to cyclists at 61 sites between 0730 and 1030 on Tuesday 18 October 2011. They were given a pack which contained a questionnaire and a map to mark their route, any accident sites and points of concern.

This was limited to the Southampton city boundary, but those who started their journey outside this area were asked to indicate where they entered it and the postcode of the start of their journey.