Cycle use up 8% in 2012 – average Briton travels 53 miles per year

Cycle use has increased markedly in the last 2 years, according to the DfT
New figures from the Department for Transport show that for the second year in a row, cycle use appears to have increased sharply.

Cycle use rose from 49 miles per person in 2011 to 53 miles in 2012.

However, most of that increase appears to be down to people making longer journeys by bike.

The average cycle trip is now 3.2 miles long – 45% longer than it was 10 years ago. This may in part be down to the increase in long distance leisure trips, and the growth of the ‘Middle Aged Man in Lycra’ (MAMIL) phenomenon.

The richest 20% of the population also travel furthest by bike – 82 miles per year, over twice as far as people from the poorest 40%.

Men in their 30s travel the furthest: 141 miles per year, closely followed by men in their 50s (134 miles) and 40s (126).

The much hyped ‘Olympic bounce’ may also have contributed to this increase.

These figures confirm the anecdotal evidence of a boom in cycle use amongst leisure and commuting cycling. However, as in previous years, growth in cycle use appears to be greatest amongst adults, with child cycle use still falling. The Government and local authorities need to make sure that the increase in cycling is matched by investment in creating better conditions for cycling, and cracking down on bad driving which endangers cyclists.

Chris Peck
CTC Policy Coordinator

What is the National Travel Survey?

The National Travel Survey is one of two major sources of high quality data on transport behaviour – with almost 20,000 people filling out a week long travel diary each year. The survey has been running in one form or another for 30 years.

Another source of data on levels of road traffic come from a traffic census, consisting of count data from hundreds of roads around the country, from which is calculated an average distance for all road traffic.

This is the second year in a row that these two datasets have diverged markedly – in each of the last two years the traffic census has shown a very slight increase in cycle use, but the National Travel Survey has shown huge increases in cycle use - as the table below shows.

Last year police figures show that serious injuries to cyclists rose by 5%, with an even more worrying 15% increase the previous year. This looks terrible if the figures from the traffic census are to be believed, but more understandable if those from the National Travel Survey are accepted as accurate.

Either way, however, local authorities and government should do more to improve conditions on the road to allow a wider range of cyclists - not just older men - to cycle more in safety.