- How many people cycle and how often?
- How many people don't cycle much, if ever?
- How many people own or have access to a bicycle?
- How many trips/miles do people cycle a year compared with other kinds of transport, and what's the average trip length?
- Do men cycle more than women?
- Which age group cycles most?
- What about children and young people, and cycling to school?
- How many people cycle to work?
- What kind of jobs do most cyclists do?
- How many drivers cycle? And how many cyclists drive?
- Is cycle use increasing in Britain?
- Where do people cycle the most?
- How much cycling is there compared with other kinds of transport?
- What's the purpose of most trips?
- How do the levels of cycling in the UK compare to those in other EU countries?
- How many cycles are sold in Great Britain?
- What's the average spend on bikes per household?
- Does cycling help the economy?
- How healthy is cycling?
- How risky is cycling?
- How many cycles are stolen in England and Wales?
Note: we use government sources for most of our figures, and quote them in brackets (the number refers to the table in the relevant publication). See Key.
Unless otherwise stated, the figures below relate to Great Britain (for useful sources specific to Scotland or Wales, see note on the National Travel Survey).
The British Social Attitudes (ATT 0305) survey of adults over the age of 18 suggests that in 2014:
The Active People Survey (APS Statistical Release), based on a much larger sample of the population, suggests that, of people aged 16+ in England (2014/15):
- 3% cycle five times a week (about 1.3 million people of 16+)
- 9% cycle at least once a week (about 4 million people of 16+)
- 15% cycle at least once per month (about 6.6 million people of 16+)
(Population estimates from ONS)
- According to the National Travel Survey, about 7% of the population aged 5+ cycled three or more times a week in 2015. If applied to the whole of Great Britain, this equates to around 4.2 million people of 5+. (NTS 0313).
- About 6% of people aged 16 and over cycled at least 1-2 times a week in 2014-15 when asked about their travel over the three months before their interview (ATWCWales).
- About 6% of people cycled on at least 1-2 days as a means of transport in the previous week when asked in 2014 (TTS Table 25b).
According to the National Travel Survey (NTS 0313), of over-fives:
- 65% cycle less than once a year, or never (equating to about 38.5 million people in Great Britain of 5+).
The British Social Attitudes Survey 2014 (ATT 0305) found that, of over 18-year olds:
- 66% never cycle nowadays (about 33 million people of 18+)
- 42% of people aged five+ (c. 25 million people) own a bicycle, while another 1% has use of one (NTS 0608)
4. How many trips/miles do people cycle a year compared with other kinds of transport, and what's the average trip length?
On average, in England (2015):
- Each person made 17 trips by cycle during the year (all age groups) (NTS 0409); and cycled 53 miles (NTS 0605);
- Each person made 914 trips by 'all modes' (i.e. car, public transport, walking etc.), which means that cycling accounted for just under 2% of all trips (NTS 0409);
- Car/van drivers made 381 car trips (NTS 0409); and drove 3,267 miles (NTS 0605);
- The average length of a cycle trip was three miles, while the average length of a car trip was about nine miles (NTS 0306):
Yes. On average in England:
- In 2015, males (of all ages) made just under three times as many cycle trips as females (25 as opposed to nine);
- Males also cycled around four times as many miles (86 as opposed to 21 for females) (NTS 0605);
- Men are more likely to cycle to work than women. In 2011: 3.9% of male workers cycled to work compared with 1.6% of female workers in England and Wales (CensusEW); while 2.1% of male workers cycled to work compared with 0.6% of female workers in Scotland (CensusS, Table DC7101SC).
- During 2015, 17-20 year-olds made on average 25 cycle trips each, slightly more than 21-29 year-olds at 23 each, and 40-49 year-olds at 22. The average for all ages was 17 trips. (NTS 0601);
- Also during 2015, 40-49 year-olds on average each cycled 87 miles over the year, outstripping all other age groups - next down were 21-29 year-olds at 76. The average cycle mileage over the year for all age groups was 53 miles (NTS 0605):
- In 2011, in England and Wales, cycling to work was most common among 30-34 year-olds - 3.5% of workers in this age group cycle-commuted. Up to 60 years of age, the rate of cycling to work was above 2% for all age groups (CensusEW).
- In 2011, in Scotland, cycling to work was most common among 25-34 and 35-49 age groups (1.7% of each age group, as opposed to 1.4% for all 16-74 year-old workers) (CensusS, Table DC7101SC).
- On average, in 2015, 0-16 year olds made 12 cycle trips each (compared to an average of 17 for all age groups) (NTS 0601); and cycled around 17 miles over the year (compared to an average of 53 for all age groups) (NTS 0605).
As far as travel to and from school is concerned, in England (2015):
- Around 1% of children aged 5-10, and 2% of children aged 11-16 cycled (down from 2% and 3% respectively in 2014) (NTS 0613):
- Walking and cars/vans were the most common forms of transport used for the school/college run. The average distance travelled for education purposes was only around three miles (NTS 0613 & NTS 0405);
- Travel for education contributed significantly to peak time traffic: from 2011-15, it was responsible for about 29% of trips between 8 and 9 am, with an additional 21% escorting others to education (NTS 0502).
- According to a 'hands-up survey' in 2014, 5% of children indicated that they normally cycled to primary school, while 0.9% cycle to secondary school (ACMRScot 2016).
- According to Transport and Travel in Scotland, 1.2% of children cycled to and from school in 2015. (TTS Sum 1)
- 2% of trips to primary schools and less than 1% of trips to secondary schools in 2014 were made by cycle (ATWCWales)
- In 2011 (England and Wales), 741,000 working residents aged 16 to 74 cycled to work. Although this was an increase of 90,000 on the number who cycled to work in 2001, the share of cycling to work was still 2.8% (CensusEW);
- Another 50,000 or so people use bikes as part of a longer journey (CensusEW);
- In 2011 (Scotland), 1.4% of people in employment aged 16-74, cycled to work (CensusS, Table QS701SC). (See also section 12)
- The number of people living in London who cycled to work more than doubled from 77,000 in 2001 to 155,000 in 2011. Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield also saw substantial increases. Cambridge too deserves a mention in dispatches – 29% of its working residents cycle-commute, a higher rate than any other local authority (next down is Oxford at 17%) (Census).
In 2014, a record 183,423 employees participated in the Government's 'Cycle to Work Scheme' (a tax-efficient scheme that allows employers to buy and hire out bikes to their staff for a regular payment - the employee can buy the bike at market value at the end of the loan period). This was an 11.6% increase in take-up on 2013. (Cycle to Work Alliance news story).
In England, around 4% of commuting trips are cycled (NTS 0409)
To investigate local changes in cycling to work throughout England and Wales between 2001 and 2011, have a look at our map.
- People from managerial and professional occupations are more likely to cycle than those from ‘intermediate/routine’ and ‘manual occupations’ (ATT 0216);
- 17% of people from managerial and professional occupations cycle more than twice a month, while 10% and 11% of people from ‘intermediate occupations’ and ‘routine and manual occupations’ respectively cycle more than twice a month (ATT 0216);
- 63% of people from managerial and professional occupations cycle less than once a year, while 78% from ‘intermediate occupations’ and ‘routine and manual occupations’ cycle less than once a year (ATT 0216);
- The proportion of cyclists increases with household income (ATT Statistical Release);
- However, the 2011 Census found that cycling-commuting was most common among those working in elementary and professional occupations, and least common amongst managers, directors and senior officials (CensusEW).
- 15% of full driving licence holders cycle more than twice a month; 18% cycle once a year to twice a month (ATT 0216);
- Around 80% of cyclists hold a driving licence (DfT Press Release)
Yes, cycle use has largely increased over the last few years (TRA 0401):
- Cycle traffic has risen almost every year since 2008:
- Figures for 2014 (3.5 billion vehicle miles) have been revised upwards since they were first published in 2015, suggesting a very healthy c.13% increase on 2013 (3.1 billion vehicle miles). This makes 2015 look less healthy (3.2 billion vehicle miles), but it remains to be seen whether these figures will be revised too at some point, and if this a reversal of the previous upward trend;
- Traffic counts suggest that the number of miles cycled in 2015 was around 10% higher than the 2007-11 average;
- This is all good news, but there’s a long way to go until cycling reaches the levels seen in 1949 (14.7 billion vehicle miles)! (Note, figures before 1993 are not directly comparable to 1992 or earlier, according to the DfT);
- Cycle use increases have been higher in some urban areas: in London, for example, the number of daily average journey stages made by cycle in 2014 went up to 0.65 million, a leap of 71% from 2004. (Travel in London Report 8, TfL 2015).
In England (2014/15), more people cycled at least three times a week in Cambridge than in any other local authority. Others in the top twenty, out of the 359 local authorities surveyed all told (i.e. district, city, borough, county & metropolitan) are (APS CW 0104):
Note: Figures for individual authorities fluctuate quite a bit from year to year, so the data above isn't a perfect reflection of cycle use in any given area. However, it's the best indication we have for how individual councils are progressing on active travel locally.
You can also find our how often people are cycling in your local area (England) from the walking and cycling statistics gathered from the Active People Survey (APS).
In Scotland (2013-14), the proportion of those cycling to work 'usually' or 'regularly’ is highest in: (ACMRScot 2016):
Source: Road Traffic Great Britain (TRA 0104 & 0402)
Purposes of cycling: recreational or utility, England (APS CW 0104)
In Scotland (TTS Table 3a):
Cycling and car trips:
Commuting and leisure are the most usual purposes for bicycle trips, while car drivers and passengers in 2015 seemed to be focusing most on leisure and shopping. (NTS 0409):
Not well. According to a survey by the European Commission, only 4% of UK respondents cycle daily. Along with Luxembourg and Spain, this is the lowest percentage of all EU 28 countries, except for Cyprus (2%) and Malta (1%).
In contrast, the survey report says: “Approximately four in ten respondents in the Netherlands (43%) cycle daily. Roughly three in ten respondents in Denmark (30%) and Finland (28%) also cycle daily.”
In the UK, only about 1-3% of children cycles to school, but in the Netherlands, around 49% of primary school children cycle to and from school, 37% walk and only 14% are brought and collected by car. In secondary school, the cycling share is even higher. (Source: Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstaat, Fietsberaad. Cycling in the Netherlands. 2009).
According to findings by Coliped, (Association of the European Two-wheeler Parts’ and Accessories’ Industry), the UK cycle industry does not collect any data on production or sales. However, HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) gathers import statistics which do, eventually, equate more or less to consumer sales. Coliped's latest profile of the EU bicycle market suggests that:
- Around 3.5 million cycles were sold in Great Britain in 2015;
- Sales have been largely stable over the last six years;
- The vast majority of cycles sold in Britain are imported, mainly from the Far East;
- The UK manufactures only about 70,000 cycles a year, the main maker being Brompton;
- Informal industry estimates suggest that: 30% of cycles sold are childrens'; 30% MTBs; 10% road; 26% classic/hybrid; 4% folding/'other
- The market for electrically assisted bikes is still very small at c 30-35,000 units;
- Cycle sales were worth about 1,020 M€ in 2015;
- About half of the retail value of the cycle market comes from bicycle sales, and half from parts and accessories.
- According to the Department for Transport's vehicles statistics, 3.21 million cars were registered for the first time in Great Britain in 2015. This means more bikes were sold than new cars registered (which has been the case for a few years now).
Obviously, how much each household spends on transport varies widely, but on average, it's around £74.80 a week. Only a tiny amount of this goes on bicycles - not needing to buy fuel is, of course, a big saving.
Source: Office for National Statistics: Family Spending (Appendix A, Table A1, section 7).
Yes. Here’s some facts from our briefing on cycling and the economy:
- The Cycle to Work Scheme (a tax-efficient scheme that allows employers to buy cycles and loan them to staff for a regular repayment) generates at least £72million in economic benefits for the UK economy in terms of health a year.
- Occasional, regular and frequent cyclists contributed a ‘gross cycling product’ of c£3bn to the British economy in 2010;
- The average economic benefit-to-cost ratio of investing in cycling and walking schemes is 13:1;
- In 2010, around 23,000 people were employed directly in bicycle sales, distribution and the maintenance of cycling infrastructure. They generated £500m in wages and £100m in taxes;
- On 9th Avenue (Manhattan), where a high quality cycle lane was rebuilt in late 2008, retail sales increased by up to 49%, compared to 3% borough-wide;
- Together, mountain biking and leisure cycle tourism contribute between £236.2m and £358m p.a. to the Scottish economy, with a cumulative gross value added of £129m.
What's more, research commissioned by Cycling UK shows that cycling could, potentially, bring in a lot more:
- If cycle use increases from less than 2% of all journeys (current levels) to 10% by 2025 and 25% by 2050, the cumulative benefits would be worth £248bn between 2015 and 2050 for England - yielding annual benefits in 2050 worth £42bn in today’s money.
See our full briefing for more on cycling and the economy, together with the sources of the facts above.
Cycling is excellent exercise. It helps people meet recommended physical activity guidelines, improves mental health and well-being, and reduces the risk of premature death and ill-health. It also fits into daily routines better than many other forms of exercise, because it doubles up as transport to work, school or the shops etc. - and it's much cheaper than going to the gym!
Here’s some facts from our briefing on cycling and health:
- People who cycle regularly in mid-adulthood typically enjoy a level of fitness equivalent to someone 10 years younger and their life expectancy is two years above the average;
- On average, regular cycle commuters take more than one day per year less off sick than colleagues who do not cycle to work.
- People who don't cycle-commute regularly have a 39% higher mortality rate than those who do;
- The health benefits of cycling outweigh the injury risks by between 13:1 and 415:1, according to various studies. The figure that is most often quoted is 20:1 (life years gained due to the benefits of cycling v the life-years lost through injuries);
- Boys aged 10-16 who cycle regularly to school are 30% more likely to meet recommended fitness levels, while girls who cycle are 7 times more likely to do so;
- How many calories you use up whilst cycling depends on your weight, height, age and how fast you ride etc., but (very) generally speaking, cycling burns around 5 calories a minute.
Lack of exercise, after all, can make people ill, and obesity is a serious and costly public health concern:
- In England, physical inactivity causes around 37,000 preventable premature deaths amongst people aged 40-79 per year;
- In 2013, almost a third of children aged 2-15 were classed as either overweight or obese;
- Without action, 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children will be obese by 2050 in the UK – and cost the NHS £10 billion p.a.
See our full briefing for more on health, along with the sources of the facts above.
Is cycling really that dangerous?
No. In general, cycling in Britain is a relatively safe activity.
Using official police-reported road casualty figures, road traffic reports, population stats and the National Travel Survey, Cycling UK calculates that, on average, over 2011-15:
- One cyclist was killed on Britain’s roads for every 29 million miles travelled by cycle - the equivalent to well over 1,000 times around the world;
- There were around 9.5 million cycle trips for every cyclist death;
- The general risk of injury of any severity whilst cycling was just 0.05 per 1,000 hours of cycling.
- According to a paper that looked at sports injuries, tennis is riskier than ‘outdoor cycling’ (5 injuries per 1,000 hours for tennis, 3.5 for cycling). ‘Rowing machine exercise’ came in at 6 injuries per 1,000 hours;
- You are more likely to be injured in an hour of gardening than in an hour of cycling;
- As mentioned above, the health benefits of cycling outweigh the injury risks by between 13:1 and 415:1, according to various studies (and depending on the benefits/disbenefits considered).
These facts, together with the reference sources, are included in our road safety briefing.
Despite this, many people are put off cycling because they think it's unsafe:
- Around 70% of non-cyclists in Britain feel that it is too dangerous for them to cycle on the roads; and over half (51%) of those who do cycle share this view. (ATT Statistical Release)
Cycling UK believes that, unfortunately, the behaviour and attitudes of some road users, sub-standard highway layout and motor traffic volume and speed all conspire to make cycling feel and look more dangerous than it actually is.
Risk per billion miles: is it going up or down?
We think it’s important not to measure the risk of cycling by the number of cyclist casualties alone (i.e. absolute numbers). How much cycling is going on comes into it too: i.e. more cycling casualties could simply reflect the fact that more people are out on their bikes. We therefore look at the risk of cycling per mile (or per trip) etc.:
- Calculations based on traffic counts suggest that the risk of being killed whilst cycling per billion miles cycled has dropped since 2005. In contrast, though, when cyclist fatalities are combined with reported serious injuries (KSI), the record for recent years is mixed, but it seems clear that the risk is higher than the 2005-2009 baseline average:
Source for both the above charts: RRCGB (RAS 30013).
For more background on cyclist road casualties, see:
- Cycling UK news story on the Dept for Transport's 'Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2015' (published September 2016)
- Dept for Transport's useful summary, Focus on Pedal Cyclists
The 'safety in numbers' effect
There is good evidence to suggest that increasing cycling exposes each individual to a lower risk of injury: a doubling in cycling has been linked with a 40% increase in cycling casualties – or a 34% reduction in the relative risk to each individual. In 2009, Cycling UK compiled evidence from over 100 English local authorities and found that it appears to be less risky to cycle in places where there are higher levels of cycle commuting. Providing well for cycling, of course, is key to such success.
See our Safety in Numbers campaign for more.
In absolute numbers, reported cyclist casualties for the last few years are as follows:
Source RRCGB (RAS 30001)
How risky is cycling when compared to other forms of transport?
Per mile, cyclists are about as likely as pedestrians to be killed on the roads - in fact, in both 2014 and 2015, pedestrians seemed to be more at risk. Cycling and walking, however, are both more risky than car driving, although motorcycling is the most risky kind of transport of all - around 3 - 3.5 times more so than walking or cycling:
Source: RRCGB (RAS 30070)
Bike security is a serious concern for cyclists and anyone who's thinking of taking up cycling - thousands of machines are stolen every year.
- From April 2015-March 2016, there were 327,000 incidents of bike theft in England and Wales. This suggests that around 26 out of every 1,000 bike-owning households were affected by bike theft.
Cycle theft is a substantial problem for police forces to tackle, but the good news is that incidents are now around 50% lower than in 1995.
Source: Crime in England and Wales, Year Ending March 2016 (published July 2016)
- ACMRScot = Annual Cycling Monitoring Report (Scotland)
- APS = Active People Survey
- ATT = British Social Attitudes Survey: Public Attitudes Towards Transport
- ATWCWales = Active travel: walking and cycling reports (Wales)
- CensusEW = Census 2011, England and Wales
- CensusS = Census 2011, Scotland
- NTS = National Travel Survey
- RRCGB = Reported Road Casualties Great Britain (annual report)
- TRA = Road Traffic Statistics
- TTS = Transport and Travel in Scotland
More on our sources:
Active People Survey, Sport England/DfT (APS): an annual household telephone survey of adults aged 16+, run by Sport England. The sample size is usually around 160,000 persons, thus enabling analysis at local authority level. The first cycling and walking collection was published in 2012, and covered 2010-11.
Active travel: Walking and Cycling, Welsh Government (ATWCWales): statistical bulletin setting out a range of baseline information about active travel by people in Wales. The data are collected from the National Survey for Wales.
Annual Cycling Monitoring Report, Cycling Scotland (ACMRScot): a collection of key cycling statistics and trends to help monitor the progress of the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland 2013 (CAPS). Looks at trends and statistics from both a national and local point of view, using a variety of sources (e.g. the Scottish Household Survey, Scottish Census etc.).
British Social Attitudes Survey: Public Attitudes towards Transport, Dept for Transport (ATT): the results of the transport-related questions asked in a representative household survey of adults aged 18 and over. The wider survey collects data on public attitudes towards a range of topics through a combination of face-to-face interviews and self-completed questionnaires. The sample size for the interviews was over 4,000 in 2015, of whom around 3,300 filled in the questionnaire.
Census 2011, England and Wales (CensusEW), cycling analysis, Office of National Statistics (Census): the Census is a count of people and households, so far conducted every ten years. It includes a question on travel to work. The population of England and Wales on Census Day, 27 March 2011, was 56,075,912.
Census 2011, Scotland (CensusS), Scottish Government. Census of every person and household in Scotland collected every ten years since 1801 (apart from 1941).
National Travel Survey, Dept for Transport (NTS): a national survey of people's travel habits, using face-to-face interviews and self-completed written travel diaries. Now that the survey covers England alone, it is based on a representative sample of around 13,000 private households. It includes all age groups, including children.
Note: In 2013, NTS coverage changed from sampling residents of all Great Britain to residents of England only. However, the results for England alone do not differ very much from those from Scotland and Wales. For cycling stats specific to Scotland or Wales, see: Cycling Scotland's Annual Cycling Monitoring Report and Transport Scotland's Private Transport web page; and the Welsh Government's reports on active travel: walking and cycling.
Reported Road Casualties Great Britain, Dept for Transport (RRCGB): annual report giving detailed statistics about the circumstances of personal injury incidents on British roads, including the types of vehicles involved, the resulting casualties, and 'contributory factors'. Most of the statistics come from ‘STATS 19’ forms that the police fill in for each reported incident. Not every non-fatal road crash gets as far as the police, of course, and it is known that incidents involving pedal cyclists are under-reported.
Road Traffic Statistics, Dept for Transport (TRA): annual road traffic estimates mainly based on around ten thousand manual counts, which are combined with data from a national network of around 180 automatic traffic counters (ATC) data, plus road lengths to produce overall estimates.
Transport and Travel in Scotland, Transport Scotland (TTS): annual bulletin presenting the answers to the transport and travel related questions in the Scottish Household Survey (including the travel diary). Also uses data from a range of sources to provide context. In 2015, the survey and diary had around 9,400 respondents.
- For more detailed data and background information not only on the topics above, but also on a wide range of others - from health, road safety and criminal justice, to cycle-commuting and rights of way (and much more) - see our campaigns briefings
- See our ‘Ten Common Questions’ for a refutation of common anti-cycling messages
Information for journalists
If you would like more information or an interview about cycling, contact Cycling UK's press office on 01483 238 315 or 07786320713.
This page was last updated in October 2016 by Cherry Allan, Cycling UK's policy and information coordinator.