The Big Bike Revival leads the way to a cycling nation

two women standing over a bike indoors. The back wheel is removed and they are working on it
A Big Bike Revival cycle maintenance session at Vicky Bikes in Kent
Cycling UK’s flagship Big Bike Revival programme got thousands more people cycling in 2021/22. Cycling UK’s head of behaviour change Andy Cremin considers the recipe for success

The results are in and it’s time to celebrate!

Throughout 2021, the Big Bike Revival delivered amazing results in communities across England, helping people to choose cycling for everyday trips.

We were delighted when many of the new cyclists told us that they quickly swapped car journeys for cycling. In fact, more than a third of them embraced pedal power for as many of half the journeys they previously drove, many of them choosing to cycle the school run or for trips to the shops.

This is thanks to our dedicated and committed network of 333 partners, who delivered thousands of events in spring and summer 2021, all designed to help overcome the barriers to cycling that many people experience.

Delivery partners ranged from local bike recycling centres to charities and community groups, all of whom were funded and supported by Cycling UK, courtesy of the Department for Transport.

Putting the ‘Big’ in Big Bike Revival

Last year was a bumper one with more than 80,000 people engaged in one of over 4,800 Big Bike Revival events under the ‘fix, learn, ride’ model.

Thousands of bikes were treated to free minor repairs at Dr Bike events; cycle maintenance classes took participants through the basics; learn to ride and cycle confidence sessions got more people pedalling happily; and led rides gave many more people their first taste of sociable riding in their areas.

The theory behind it all

The programme has behaviour change theory at its core. This means that each strand aims to increase capability and motivation and give opportunity to cycle. We don’t want to just fix bikes: we want to make big changes to how participants make short journeys.

Some 11,253 more people now identify as regular cyclists after taking part (cycling at least once a fortnight). Even better, for some people, 50% of journeys that were previously made by car are now being cycled.

This helps reduce pollution and traffic congestion, as well as helping people to stay active and healthy. We know the positive impact that the programme has on health and wellbeing: 87% of people felt happier and 57% saw improvements in physical and mental wellbeing after taking part.

It’s personal

We can see the programme has impact on a big scale, but at heart it’s the personal journeys that really count. Something as simple as riding a bike to the shops can make a huge difference.

For instance, when Denise first attended a Big Bike Revival event at Moston Cycling Club in Manchester, she hadn’t used her bike in the last year. Three months later she was cycling every week. In her own words: “It’s got me back outside in the fresh air exercising, whatever the weather. I really enjoy it and cycle much more than I ever did before.”

Cycling for all

Big Bike Revival works across England but focuses on locations where people are less likely to cycle. This includes areas of economic deprivation and ethnically diverse communities.

Cycling is often painted as an elitist sporting activity that is only done by a small sector of society. The results from the programme show, however, that people from all backgrounds want to be able to choose to cycle – to be healthier, to reduce their impact on the environment and (what it’s really all about) to have fun while they do it.

This year, 56% of participants were female, which is a positive step forward, given that traditionally two to three times as many men than women cycle.

Ginny rode a used bike back in the 1960s in a family of utility cyclists, but had been cycling less and less over the years. Much later in life, she was looking for a renewed sense of purpose and an activity that made her feel good.

It’s the best thing I’ve done this year. I have a renewed sense of purpose and enthusiasm for cycling

Ginny, Big Bike Revival participant

She went along to a women-only Big Bike Revival event and overcame initial nerves to enjoy the sessions, coming away with a sense of achievement, helped by the group of women at the sessions being supportive and good fun, and encouraging each other.

She now feels physically stronger, and it has given her a mental boost. “It’s the best thing I’ve done this year. I have a renewed sense of purpose and enthusiasm for cycling that I am hoping will last for many years.”

Supporting local organisations

We know that changing people’s behaviour is a challenge, with many having their own barriers, whether that’s feelings of safety, lack or confidence or cycle skills issues. Throughout the 10 years of delivering the Big Bike Revival, we have adapted the programme to best meet the needs of participants, distilling all the knowledge to create Behaviour Change cards for 2021.

These cards help local delivery partners put on events designed to give people have a great experience and change their behaviour positively.

The future

We know that people everywhere want to be able to cycle; for health and wellbeing, for environmental reasons and to save money. The Big Bike Revival plays a key role in helping those that are new to cycling, or just thinking about returning to get the pedals turning to break down the barriers.

Changing behaviour takes a long time, but we know we are on the right path and hope that the amazing work can continue as communities across England discover the joys that everyday cycling can bring.