Cycling UK's Cycling Statistics
About these statistics
Each year, Cycling UK rounds up the latest available statistics covering the topics that most often generate queries (see contents list below).
Obviously, statistics covering a full year aren’t published until the year afterwards. This is often some months in and, occasionally, not until the year after that. We time our annual update to capture as much of the latest data as possible, meaning that most (but not all) of the figures cited below relate to 2019.
The following figures mainly come from official government publications. Our sources are quoted in brackets (see ‘Key to sources’, and ‘More about our sources’ below).
Currently, some sets of 2019 data are delayed because of the pandemic, but we’ll incorporate them in due course.
What about 2020?
Talking of the pandemic, as these statistics don’t go beyond 2019 or early 2020 at most, they can’t reflect significant changes in travel behaviour during lockdown. This has often been marked by higher levels of cycling and less motor traffic.
If you’d like to investigate this further, see:
- Daily GB traffic figures from the Department for Transport during the pandemic, including cycling estimates in England (bear in mind that cycling is highly seasonal). In spring and early summer 2020, weekends typically showed a huge rise when compared to pre-lockdown baselines, more than tripling on occasion. People were cycling more on weekdays too, with peak figures often at least doubling.
- Press release from Cycling Scotland on a 43% rise in cycling between March and August 2020.
- Press release from Transport for London (TfL) on cycle counts carried out in autumn 2020 showing a 7% increase in cycling in inner London and a 22% increase in outer London, compared to the previous count in spring 2019.
2020 statistics released over the coming months will, perhaps, be the most fascinating yet – so watch out for our analysis in due course.
Going back to more ‘normal’ times and the routine publication of transport and travel statistics, it’s important to note that England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all produce data sets, but their approaches don’t always match.
The surveys that collect travel data, for example, do not necessarily ask the same questions. Also, not every administration asks all its questions annually, questionnaires are sent out to potential respondents at different times and at different frequencies, some cover all ages, some just adults (defined as either 16+ or 18+), and the results are published at different points in the calendar.
This means that we need to be careful when comparing figures and to be aware that certain data may not be collected by every government.
Last revision January 2021.
- How much cycling is there compared to other transport, and is it increasing?
- How many people cycle and how often?
- How many people don't cycle much, if ever?
- How many cycle trips do people make, and how far do they go each time?
- How many people own or have access to a bicycle?
- Who cycles most – women or men?
- Which age group cycles most?
- What’s the purpose of most trips?
- What proportion of children cycle to school and how far do they travel?
- What about cycling to work?
- Occupation, income, ethnicity and impairment
- How many drivers cycle? And how many cyclists drive?
- What kind of roads are people most likely to cycle on?
- Which local areas see the most cycling?
- How do UK levels of cycling compare to those in other European countries?
- How safe is cycling?
- How many cycles are sold in the UK?
- What's the average weekly household spend on bikes?
- How many cycles are stolen in the UK?
- What are our main sources?
- More about our main sources
Proportion of traffic Great Britain (2019)
Cycling made up only 1% of the mileage accumulated by all vehicular road traffic (cycles are vehicles). In comparison, cars and taxis accounted for just over 77%. Both figures are more or less the same as they were in 2018. (TRA 0104 & 0402).
Note: the figure for cycling includes riding on public roadways and cycle paths. It does not include cycling activity elsewhere (e.g. on towpaths, byways or bridleways).
|Cycle use as a proportion of all vehicle miles, 2019|
|Motor vehicle bvm||Cycle bvm||All bvm (motor + cycle)||% cycled|
|* bvm = billion vehicle miles|
Great Britain (1949-2019)
Cycle traffic has been trending upwards since 1993. (TRA 0403).
We’ve seen a very, very steep fall since 1949, however, when cycle traffic was estimated to be around 14.7 billion vehicle miles. (TRA 0401).
At least traffic counts suggest that the number of miles cycled in 2019 – 3.45 billion – is around 36% higher than it was 20 years ago.
London (1977-2018)Cycle use increases have been higher in some urban areas: in London, for example, around 27,000 people cycled across the central London cordon in 1977, compared to 172,000 in 2018 – over six times as many.
Source: Travel in London - Report 12 data, TfL. (Fig. 6.5)
Northern Ireland estimates cycle mileage by multiplying the distance cycled on average per person by the population. This suggests a rise from around 32 million miles in 1999-2001 to 60 million in 2016-2018. (TSNI Table 1)
Proportion of trips
In 2019, cycling accounted for 1.7% of all trips. This figure has hardly changed for years. (NTS 0409).
In 2019, 1.2% of journeys were made by bicycle as the ‘main mode’. This is a drop on 2017 and 2018 (1.5% and 1.4% respectively), and the same as in 2015 and 2016. (TTS TableTD2).
Northern Ireland (2008-2018)
In 2018, cycles were the ‘main mode’ for 1% of all journeys. This proportion has been about the same for the last decade. (TSNI Table 4 – headline report).
A note on Wales: the figures for the proportion of trips made by bike per person in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are based on answers given to survey questions that are not asked in Wales.
|England: proportion of people (16+) who cycle for travel by frequency, 2018/2019|
|How often in the last four weeks? (at least)||%||Millions of people|
|Five times a week||1.9||0.9|
|Three times a week||3.1||1.4|
|Once a week||5.9||2.7|
|Once a month||7.6||3.4|
Source: CW 0302
|Wales: proportion of people (16+) who cycle as a means of transport by frequency, 2019/2020|
|How often in the last three months?||%|
|Several times a week||2.0|
|Once or twice a week||1.6|
|Once or twice a month||4.2|
Source: NSW (full-year results, results viewer)
|Scotland: proportion of people (16+) who cycle as a means of transport by frequency, 2019|
|How often in the last seven days?||%|
Source: TTS 3a
Northern Ireland (2017/2018)
|Northern Ireland: proportion of people (16+) who did any cycling, 2017-2018|
|How often in the last four weeks?||%|
|Once every 4 weeks||1.2|
|Once every fortnight||3.0|
|Once a week||1.9|
|2-4 days a week||1.5|
|5-7 days a week||0.8|
Source: CNI (calculated from Tables 2b & 3a)
- The data above apply to people aged 16+, and cover cycling for transport rather than for recreation/sport (except for Northern Ireland whose results come from answers to a question asking people to report on ‘any’ cycling they’ve done). For cycling by children, see Q9.
- Again, it’s important to remember that these figures are based on different surveys with differently framed questions. It seems reasonable to assume from them, however, that around 4% - 6% of the population aged 16+ in the UK as a whole ride their bikes at least once a week or more = 2–3 million people.
Well over four-fifths of the UK’s population aged 16 and above rarely cycle, if ever. That’s at least 43 million people. (For sources, see Q2).
|Proportion of people (16+) who cycle less than once a month or never|
|Respondents surveyed about cycling in the...||% who ride less than once a month/never|
|England (2018/2019)||Last four weeks||81.5|
|Wales (2019/2020)||Last three months||90.6|
|Scotland (2019)||Last seven days||95.1|
|Northern Ireland (2017/2018)||Last four weeks||91.6|
Note: These figures cover cycling as a means of transport, rather than for leisure (except for Northern Ireland which includes both).
On average, during 2019:
- Each person made 953 trips by 'all modes' (i.e. car, bike, public transport, foot etc.). (NTS 0409).
- Each person made 16 trips by cycle during the year (all age groups); and cycled 53 miles. These figures factor in people who don’t cycle, though. (NTS 0409).
- Those who do cycle averaged many more trips and many more miles: around 326 trips, 335 ‘stages’ (i.e. rides as part of trip including other modes) and 1,064 miles. (NTS 0314).
- Each person made 380 trips by car or van, and drove 3,188 miles. (NTS 0409).
- The average length of a cycle trip was 3.3 miles, while the average length of a car trip was 8.4 miles. (NTS 0303).
|England: car, cycle and 'all modes' use, average per person during 2019|
|Car/van driver||Cycle||All modes|
|Average number of trips||380||16||953|
|Average trip length (miles)||8.4||3.3||7|
The average length of car/van, cycle and ‘all modes’ trips are: (TTS TD5a)
|Scotland: average (mean) distance, 2019|
|Average trip length (miles)||9.0||3.0||7.3|
Northern Ireland (2016-2018)
On average, in 2016-2018: (TSNI Tables 1 & 2)
- Each person made 903 trips by 'all modes' (i.e. car, bike, public transport, walking etc.).
- Each person made seven trips by cycle during the year (all age groups); and cycled 32 miles.
- Each person made 439 car trips as the driver, and clocked up 3,434 miles.
- The average length of a cycle trip was 4.7 miles and 7.8 miles for cars.
|Northern Ireland: car and cycle use, average per person per year during 2016-2018|
|Car driver||Cycle||All modes|
|Average number of trips||439||7||903|
|Average trip length (miles)||7.8||4.7||6.5|
A note on Wales: comparable data are not readily available.
- England (2017/19): 42% of people aged 5+ own or have access to a bicycle = c.22 million people; at 83%, bike ownership is much more likely among children aged 5-10 than for any other age group. (NTS 0608).
- Wales (2013/14): the proportion of people who own or have access to a bike is: 63% amongst 16-24 year-olds; 63% amongst 25-44 year-olds; 58% amongst 45-64 year-olds; 44% amongst 65-74 year-olds; and 30% amongst 75+ year-olds. (NSW).
- Scotland (2019): 33.5% of households have one or more bicycles that can be used by adults. (TTS Table 18a).
- Northern Ireland (2017/18): 36% of 16+ year-olds own/have use of a bicycle. (CNI Table 1a).
- On average, males of all ages made three times as many cycle trips as females (NTS 0601);
- Males also cycled 3.7 times as many miles (NTS 0601):
|England: average number of cycle trips & yearly cycle mileage by gender, 2019|
Women are more likely than men to say they hardly ever cycle or don’t cycle at all. (NSW).
|Wales: how often used bike to get somewhere by gender, 2019/20|
|Several times a week||-||-|
|Once or twice a week||-||-|
|Once or twice a month||-||6%|
|Less often / never||95%||86%|
Note: the bike use questions in the National Survey for Wales in 2019/20 were asked of fewer people than in the year before. The results for 2018/19 were:
|Wales: how often used bike to get somewhere by gender, 2018/19|
|Several times a week||1.2%||2.9%|
|Once or twice a week||1.5%||3.2%|
|Once or twice a month||2.7%||4.5%|
|Less often / never||94.1%||87.4%|
Again, males cycle more often than females. (TTS 25a).
|Scotland: frequently of cycling in the previous seven days, 2019|
|Female (%)||Male (%)|
|As a means of transport||Just for pleasure / to keep fit||As a means of transport||Just for pleasure / to keep fit|
Northern Ireland (2017/18)
When asked whether they’d done any cycling in the last four weeks, 13% of men and 5% of women answered yes. (CNI Tables 1b & 2b).
Younger age groups are more likely to cycle than older age groups.
The age group most likely to report that they’d cycled at least once a week for travel were 16-24 year-olds (11%); cycling for leisure was most popular with 45-54 year-olds (18%). (CW 0305).
At 4%, older people (60+) were less likely to cycle once a month for transport than younger people. About 14% of 16-24-year-olds and 35-44 year-olds cycled at the same frequency. The two other age groups (25-34 and 45-59) came in at just under to just over 10% respectively. (ATWCWales (release 2018-19), Chart 4).
Generally speaking, when asked whether they’d cycled as a means of transport in the last seven days, younger age groups (apart from 30-39 year-olds), were more likely to say they had cycled at any frequency than people over fifty. The picture for cycling ‘just for pleasure/to keep fit’ is a touch more mixed, with 40-49 year-olds in particular saying they enjoying a ride on 1-2 days a week. (TTS 25a).
Northern Ireland (2017/2018)
When asked whether they’d cycled at all (at any frequency) in the last four weeks, people in the 35-44 age group were more likely to say yes than any other (14%). (CNI Tables 1b & 2b).
Note: the sample size for 16-24 year-olds was too small for analysis.
At lower frequencies of cycling, people were more likely to cycle for leisure than for travel. It’s the other way round for higher frequencies – which probably has a lot to do with commuting (CW 0302):
|England (201/19): proportion of adults aged 16+ who cycle for leisure or travel at least...|
|1x per month||1x per week||3x per week||5x per week|
|* For health, recreation, training or competition, not to get from place to place|
Cycling and car trips
Commuting and leisure are the most usual purposes for cycle trips, while car drivers and passengers in 2019 seemed to be focusing mostly on leisure and shopping. (NTS 0409).
|England: average number of trips per person per year during the year by purpose and main mode, 2019|
|Purpose||Cycle||Walk||Car/van driver||Car/van passenger||All modes (inc. motorcycles & public transport)|
|Education / escort education||2||52||27||29||125|
|Other including just walk||0||62||0||0||61|
|* Visit friends at home and elsewhere, entertainment, sport, holiday and day trip|
When asked how often they’d ridden their bikes over the past week for either transport or pleasure purposes, people were slightly more likely to say they’d cycled for transport on 3-5 and 6-7 days, but more likely to say they’d cycled ‘just for pleasure’ on 1-2 days (TTS 3a).
|Scotland: frequency of cycling in the previous seven days, 2019|
|1-2 days||3-5 days||6-7 days|
|Just for pleasure||3.3%||1.7%||0.7%|
|As a means of transport||1.8%||2.2%||1.0%|
When asked what the purpose of their most recent trip by cycle was, 30.5% of respondents said it was to commute or for business. Just over a fifth said it was to visit the local shops for small errands. The rest cited a variety of other reasons, a mixture of leisure and utility (NSW).
A note on Northern Ireland: data on the purpose of cycle trips are not readily available.
England (1995/97 – 2019)
In 2019, around 1.4% of 5-10 year-olds, and 2.7% of 11-16 year-olds cycled to and from school.
For all 5-16 year-olds, just 2% cycled to and from school. This figure has changed very little since 1995/97. (Note: any year-on- year fluctuations – a rise to almost 3% in 2018, for example - involves so few children that they should be viewed with some caution).
- In 2019, walking (43%) and cars/vans (37%) were the most common forms of transport used for the school run. In 1995/97, these figures were 47% and 30% respectively. (‘Walking’ includes riding on toy bikes, roller-skates, skateboards, scooters, or jogging).
* Dft says: ‘There is an apparent under-recording of short walks in 2002 and 2003; and short trips in 2007 and 2008 compared to other years.’
- The average distance travelled for education purposes in 2019 was just 2.6 miles.
All the above figures come from NTS 0613.
- Travel for education contributed significantly to peak time traffic (all modes of transport): from 2015-19, it was responsible for about 29% of trips between 8 and 9 am, with an additional 23% escorting others to education. (NTS 0502).
According to a 'hands-up survey', 5.7% of children indicated that they normally cycle to primary school, while 1.4% said they cycle to secondary school and 3.9% to nursery school. Altogether, (excluding nurseries), 4.1% rode between their schools and home:
According to Transport and Travel in Scotland, however, 1.9% of children in full time education usually cycled to and from school (2% of 4-11 year-olds, and 1% of 12-18 year-olds). (TTS 15).
- The National Survey for Wales implies that, according to their respondents, only an insignificant proportion of primary and secondary aged children typically cycled to and from school.
- Of primary school children, 57% went by car, and 44% walked. For secondary school children, 31% went by car or taxi, 33% used the school bus, while 33% walked.
- (In 2013/14, the survey found that 2% of primary and insignificant proportion of secondary aged children typical cycled to and from school).
NSW (results viewer).
Northern Ireland (2016-2018)
- 2% of 4-11 year-olds cycled to school as a ‘main mode’, 23% walked (30% in 2013-15) and 61% went by car or van (55% in 2013-2015).
- Less than 1% of 12-18 year-olds cycled to school. Otherwise, 17% walked, 34% went by car or van, and 46% by public transport.
TSNI Table 5
In England, around 4% commuting trips were cycled, a figure that has changed very little over recent years. About two-thirds were driven. (NTS 0412).
- The last Census for England and Wales (2011), found that 741,000 working residents aged 16 to 74 cycled to work. Another 50,000 or so people use bikes as part of a longer journey. (CensusEW).
2.7% of employed adults commuted by cycle, while 68.2% drove or were driven. (TTS, Table 7).
When asked ‘what mode of transport do you typically use to get to work?’, 4% of respondents to the National Survey of Wales said they cycled. Over three-quarters (76%), said they usually went by car, with another 5% taking lifts. (Update not available at time of writing). (NSW).
1% of journeys to work were cycled, while 81% were driven. These figures have changed very little over the last decade. (TSNI table 4.3).
2% of respondents to the Continuous Household Survey in Northern Ireland said they normally cycled to and from work. (Walking and cycling to/from work in Northern Ireland 2018/19).
Note: cycling-related data on occupation, income, ethnicity and impairment are not published by every government.
- Full-time students were more likely to cycle at least three times a week than other people with occupations – 7.5% of them.
- Next down were people with lower supervisory/technical jobs (7.3%) and then those with managerial, admin/professional jobs (6.7%).
- People least likely to cycle three times a week were those who have never worked and the long-term unemployed, and those in ‘intermediate’ occupations.
People in the highest real income level made 20 trips on average a year, suggesting that they were more likely to cycle than any other group.
People who identified themselves as ‘White Other’ were more likely to cycle at least three times a week than other ethnic groups. (These findings vary somewhat year-on-year, so if you’re interested in investigating further, check out the DfT’s table CW 0305, which goes back to 2015/16).
6.3% of people with no disability cycled three times a week, compared to 2.9% with a limiting disability.
People with a limiting long-standing illness, disability or infirmity were less likely to have cycled at any frequency than those without a limiting illness – just over 5% as opposed to around 11% respectively. (ATWCWales Chart 5).
Note: Wales has issued an active travel release covering April 2019 to March 2020 too, but the sample size for cycling-related questions was much smaller than the year before (2,000 as opposed to 12,000), and the results were only summarised briefly. The release covering 2018/2019, quoted above, is much more detailed.
In terms of annual net household income, the likelihood of usually travelling to work by cycle is a mixed picture. (TTS Table 7).
People who identified themselves as ‘Other White’ were usually more likely to travel to work by cycle than other ethnic groups (TTS Table 7).
In 2017/2018, of the people who said that they have use of a bicycle (CNI 2b):
- 16% of those who reported a disability said they’d cycled in the last four weeks, compared to 30% of those who reported that they did not have a disability.
- The economically active were as likely to cycle as those not economically active (27%).
In 2018/2019, around 1.3% of people with a disability cycled at least part of the way to work, as opposed to 2.5% of people with no disability. (Walking and cycling to/from work in Northern Ireland 2018/19, Table 8).
According to the answer to a question Cycling UK asked the Department for Transport, in 2018:
- Almost a third of people (30%) who held a driving licence also cycled.
- Over four-fifths (83%) of people aged 18 years+ who cycled held a driving licence and drove.
Note: this data comes originally from the National Travel Survey (NTS), which covers households in England only. ‘People who cycle’ include all those who reported that they cycled more often than “once a year or never”.
Great Britain (2015-2019)
Over four-fifths (82%) of cycling takes place on minor roads, and 59% on urban minor roads.
|Great Britain: cycle traffic by road class, yearly average, 2015-2019|
|Billion vehicle miles||%|
|Rural 'A' roads||0.13||4%|
|Urban 'A' roads||0.46||14%|
|All major roads||0.59||18%|
|Rural minor roads||0.77||23%|
|Urban minor roads||1.94||59%|
|All minor roads||2.70||82%|
|TOTAL (All major + minor roads)||3.30||100%|
Source: Road Traffic Great Britain (TRA 0402)
Note: the above table reflects cycling on roads only, not off-road on bridleways or byways etc.
Note: each of these tables uses a different measurement. Also, figures for individual authorities fluctuate quite a bit from year to year (this could be, for example, because of small sample numbers in some areas and/or few people cycling – i.e. finding an extra handful of cyclists compared to the handful found the year before, would double the percentage). This means that the following data aren't a perfect reflection of cycle use, or progress on it, in any given area, but they do provide a useful indication. Topography, the density of settlements, population, demographics and urban/rural split are factors to consider too, when comparing authorities.
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 etc.) are (CW 0302):
|England, 2018/2019: proportion of adults cycling at least three times a week - top 20 local authorities|
|Isle of Scilly *||20.0%|
|Richmond upon Thames||12.5%|
|Bristol, City of||11.6%|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||11.0%|
|Vale of White Horse||10.5%|
|Average for England = 5.3%|
|* Sample sizes for the Isles of Scilly are very small and caution is needed when interpreting these results|
Note: This chart is rather unfair on authorities who clocked up 10.4%, or not far off. So, do have a look at DfT's walking and cycling statistics for more. These cover all local authorities in England, so if yours isn't in the top twenty, you can check the list to find out how they rank.
According to the statistical bulletin on walking and cycling in Wales for 2018/2019:
“Due to the small numbers of people who cycle as a means of transport, it is not possible to produce reliable statistics for frequency of cycling at the local authority level. We can however look at those who used a bicycle as a means of transport in the previous three months more frequently than once a month, though sample sizes are still low so these estimates should be interpreted with caution.”
With that in mind, around 16% of respondents in Cardiff said they’d cycled more often than once a month in 2018/19, putting it at the top of the chart. The city came a good second to Flintshire in 2017/18, both scoring around 17%. Ceredigion and Swansea appeared in the top five in each of these surveys, although Flintshire came 7th in 2018/19 at about 12%. (ATWCWales: releases April 2019 to March 2020 and April 2018 to March 2019, Chart 9)
Scotland (2017 & 2018)
People in Edinburgh and Highland were more likely to cycle to work usually/regularly than in any other authority in both 2017 and 2018. (ACMRScot 2019 & 2020).
|Scotland, 2018: proportion of people cycling to work at least regularly: top five local authorities|
|1||City of Edinburgh||12.9%|
|4||Dumfries and Galloway||6.7%|
|Average for Scotland = 5.5%|
|Scotland, 2017: proportion of people cycling to work at least regularly: top five local authorities|
|1||City of Edinburgh||11.9%|
|Average for Scotland = 4.9%|
Northern Ireland (2017/18)
The Continuous Household Survey asks respondents about their attitudes to cycling. The following, which lists all the district councils, shows the proportion of residents in each who identified themselves as cyclists. This ranged from almost 2% to just under 4%, with Mid Ulster District highest at 3.6% (CNI Table 5b).
|Northern Ireland (2017-2018): proportion of residents who identified themselves as a cyclist by district council|
|Mid & East Antrim||3.2%|
|Newry, Mourne & Down||3.0%|
|Antrim & Newtownabbey||2.5%|
|Derry & Strabane||2.5%|
|Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon||2.4%|
|Causeway Coast & Glens||2.2%|
|North Down & Ards||2.1%|
|Fermanagh & Omagh||1.9%|
|Lisburn & Castlereagh||1.6%|
Not well. According to data on ‘cycling modal share’, collected by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), the UK comes towards the bottom of the list of 28 countries in Europe.
|Country||Cycling modal share|
|Republic of Cyprus||1.0%|
Note: countries do not necessarily collect the same kind of data or report on them in the same way. The above table, which covers recent years – but not always the same ones – is therefore indicative of the share that cycling enjoys (or does not enjoy), compared to other ways of travelling. It’s fair to say, though, that the Netherlands always rises to the top, and the UK is never anywhere near it.
In 2013, the European Commission published a special ‘Eurobarometer’, which includes the results of a survey that asked people in each EU country how often they cycled. Again, the Netherlands shone, along with Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Germany and Sweden.
Looking at the Netherlands in particular:
- More than a quarter of all trips made by residents are by bike.
- In 2016, there were 4.5 billion bicycle trips, spanning a distance of 15.5 billion kms.
- There are 17 million inhabitants, and 23 million bicycles.
- Bicycle use, measured in kilometres, was 12% higher in 2016 than in 2005.
For these, and other data, see Cycling Facts, from the Government of the Netherlands.
Cycling is safer than many people think it is.
Great Britain, 2015-2019
On average, over a distance equivalent to 1,000 times round the Earth at its widest point:
- One cyclist is killed (0.76, in fact).
- 34 are seriously injured.
- 101 are slightly injured.
- There are around 10.5 million cycle trips for every cyclist fatality.
- The general risk of injury of any severity whilst cycling is just 0.045 per 1,000 hours of cycling.
Despite this, many people are put off cycling because they think it's unsafe:
- Around two-thirds of the population aged 16+ agree/strongly agree that it is too dangerous for them to cycle on the roads (National Travel Attitudes Survey, NTAS 0101a).
Cycling UK believes that, unfortunately, the behaviour and attitudes of some road users, speed, lorries, the sheer volume of motor traffic and substandard road layout all conspire to make cycling feel and look more dangerous than it actually is.
Also, 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).
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 (‘absolute numbers’). If the number of cyclist casualties drop, it could simply be because fewer people are out on their bikes; if they rise, it could be because cycle use levels are going up.
If, on the other hand, more people are out riding, but casualty numbers rise less steeply or even drop, it suggests that cycling /cycling conditions must have grown safer.
Absolute numbers, therefore, are not a good measurement of whether the risk of cycling is going up or down. We therefore look at casualties per mile / trip (the rate) instead.
Calculations based on traffic counts for the last twenty years suggest that the risk of being killed whilst cycling per billion miles cycled has been trending downwards since 2012, as has the risk of being seriously injured (RAS 30001 & TRA 0401).
This graph separates out casualties from mileage:
In absolute numbers, reported cyclist casualties for GB, 2009 to 2019 are:
|Great Britain: cyclist casualties, 2009-2019|
|Seriously injured (unadjusted)||2,606||2,660||3,085||3,222||3,143||3,401||3,239||3,397||3,698||3,707||3,695|
|Seriously injured (adjusted)||3,994||4,068||4,658||4,808||4,787||5,225||4,787||4,560||4,549||4,519||4,333|
|Slightly injured (unadjusted)||14,354||14,414||16,023||15,751||16,186||17,773||15,505||14,978||14,522||13,744||13,089|
|Slightly injured (adjusted)||12,966||13,006||14,450||14,165||14,542||15,949||13,957||13,815||13,671||12,932||12,451|
Source: RAS 30001.
* 'Adjusted' figures: the DfT supplies figures that have been adjusted to account for changes in the way many police forces have reported on severity since 2016. Forces who introduced the new system tended to record injuries that they would have considered ‘slight’ in the past as ‘serious’ instead. (For the definitions of ‘serious’ and ‘slight’, see DfT’s guidance).
Absolute figures for England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the UK in total for 2019 are:
|UK: cyclist casulaties 2019|
Source: RAS 30034.
How risky is cycling when compared to other forms of transport?
For the past five years for which figures are available, pedestrians were more likely than cyclists to be killed on the roads per billion miles travelled. It is the other way round for serious injuries and by a much bigger margin.
Cycling and walking, however, are both riskier than car driving, although motorcycling is the riskiest kind of transport of all – around 3-4 times more so than walking or cycling in terms of fatalities:
|Great Britain: relative risk of different forms of transport, 2015-2019 - casualty rate per billion vehicle miles||2015||2016||2017||2018||2019|
Source: RAS 30070.
Please note that the casualty figures above originate from police reports.
While most, if not all, road fatalities are reported to the police, a proportion of non-fatal casualties are not, even if someone goes to hospital for treatment. The Department for Transport (DfT) estimates that this is, in fact, a ‘considerable’ proportion and discusses the implications and extent of this in detail in its annual report, 2019 (p27-37).
That aside, as the DfT says, ‘police data on road accidents, whilst not perfect, remain the most detailed, complete and reliable single source of information on road casualties covering the whole of Great Britain, in particular for monitoring trends over time, and remains well regarded in international comparisons.’
Estimating the number of cycles sold in the UK is far from straightforward, and much of the data is published in reports for which there is a charge.
One source is The Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry (CONEBI), who have kindly given us permission to make use of figures they collected for the UK in their latest issue of European Industry and Market Data.
Bearing in mind that CONEBI says that the following are more than likely to be underestimates:
- The UK manufactured around 137,000 units of ‘conventional bikes’, including electrically assisted pedal cycles (EAPCs or e-bikes), in 2019 (this figure stood at 117,000 in 2018). The last time the UK reached anything like this level was 2005 (135,000). The report says that the rise probably ‘reflects some organic growth and new market entrants’.
- The UK bicycle market is otherwise principally supplied by the Far East.
- In 2019, the UK sold 2,613,000 cycles (including e-bikes). This is slightly more than in 2018, but not as impressive as sales in 2006 (3,920,000). Nevertheless, only two countries listed by CONEBI sold more units – Germany (4,310,000) and France (2,653,000). (Be aware of population figures when comparing sales, however).
- E-bike sales have been growing, from 40,000 units in 2015, to 101,000 in 2019.
- The 2019 average price of a cycle in the UK was around 300 Euros.
- The UK produces about 1.72% of European bicycle parts and accessories. Italy is the biggest producer at over a quarter.
Please contact CONEBI if you wish to quote any of the above. Their report also covers bike industry figures for other nations in Europe, and for Europe as a whole.
- In 2019, around 2.35 million new cars were registered for the first time in the UK, fewer than the number of cycles reportedly sold (2.6 million). (DfT, Vehicle Licensing Statistics, Table VEH 0150).
- Transport for Quality of Life’s 2018 report for the Bicycle Association, The Value of the Cycling Sector to the British Economy: A Scoping Study estimated that products associated with the cycling industry contributed about £0.7b to the British economy.
Obviously, how much each household spends on transport varies widely but, on average, it's around £80.80 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 (Table A1, section 7).
|UK: average weekly household expenditure on transport, 2018|
|Purchase (outright or loan/hire purchase; new or second hand||£27.00||£0.50|
|Other motoring costs||£3.10||£0.00|
|Total transport spend (private and public transport)||£80.80|
|Spend on public transport||£19.70|
Bike security is a serious concern for people who already cycle, and for anyone who's thinking of taking it up.
England & Wales
According to a household survey, there were around 271,000 incidents of bicycle theft between April 2019 to March 2020 (adults 16+/households). There were 315,000 over the same period the year before.
Not every bike theft incident is reported to or recorded by the police: over the same period, the police recorded 88,299 bicycle theft crimes (98,384 the year before).
Source: Crime in England and Wales, tables A1 and A4.
Best estimates suggest that about 16,000 bicycle theft crimes were committed in 2018/2019, affecting approximately 0.7% of households. (Note: this comes from a crime survey, not police records).
Source: Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, 2018-2019: main findings. (Tables A1.1 & A1.5).
Best estimates for 2018/19 suggest that: around 0.3% of households and 0.9% of adult bicycle owners fell victim to bicycle theft; and there were around 3,000 incidents.
The police recorded 882 bicycle thefts (833 in the year before).
ACMRScot = Annual Cycling Monitoring Report (Scotland)
ATWCWales = Active Travel Walking and Cycling (Wales)
CNI = Cycling in Northern Ireland
CW = Walking and cycling statistics (England)
NSW = National Survey for Wales
NTS = National Travel Survey (England)
RAS = Reported Road Casualties Great Britain
TRA = Road Traffic Statistics (GB)
TSNI = Travel Survey for Northern Ireland
TTS = Transport and Travel in Scotland
Road Traffic Statistics, Department for Transport (TRA)
These are estimates of the vehicle miles travelled each year in Great Britain by vehicle type, road category and region. They are compiled using data from around 8,000 roadside 12-hour manual counts, continuous data from automatic traffic counters, and data on road lengths.
Reported Road Casualties Great Britain, Department for Transport (RAS)
These are annual road casualty statistics released twice each year (the main results appear in June, followed later in September by much more detailed data and analyses). They are mostly based on forms (STATS19) filled in by the police when collisions are reported to them, and provide figures for personal injury road accidents, vehicles and casualties involved. Although most tables relate to GB, some offer figures relating specifically to England, Wales, Scotland and (very occasionally) to Northern Ireland.
The devolved nations also published casualty figures separately:
Note on underreporting: not all incidents are reported to the police so some do not make their way into official statistics.
National Travel Survey (NTS) & National Travel Attitudes Survey (NTAS), Department for Transport
The NTS is a household survey that monitors long-term trends in personal travel. It collects data via interviews and a seven-day travel diary, recording how, why, when and where people of all ages travel as well as factors affecting travel. It’s part of a continuous survey that began in 1988, following ad hoc surveys from the 1960s.
Until 2013, it covered the whole of Britain, but England alone thereafter. In 2019, 6,162 households participated fully (interview + seven-day travel diary), and a further 663 were interviewed only. For each table, the DfT gives the sample size on which its results are based.
From 2019, the DfT has been conducting a National Travel Attitudes Survey (NTAS). This is based on questions asked of NTS respondents who consent to being contacted for further studies. Multiple survey waves are conducted each year.
Walking and Cycling Statistics, Department for Transport (CW)
These statistics are derived from the NTS (see above) and the Active Lives Survey (ALS).
The ALS is a ‘push-to-web’ survey of households in England conducted by Sport England to derive official estimates of participation in sport and physical activity. It is much bigger than the NTS, with around 182,000 adults (aged 16+) taking part in 2018/19. The first ALS was conducted between November 2015 and November 2016.
The relatively large sample size for the ALS makes it a particularly useful source of data on cycling and walking frequencies at local authority level.
National Survey for Wales, Welsh Government (NSW)
The NSW involves around 12,000 people each year, running all year round and across the whole of Wales. It asks people about several aspects of their lives, including their travel habits (but it does not ask respondents to keep a travel diary, unlike the NTS).
Active Travel Walking and Cycling Wales, Welsh Government (ATWCWales)
This is a statistical bulletin that presents and analyses the responses to the active travel questions asked in the NSW (see above). Annual reports vary in detail.
Transport and Travel in Scotland, Scottish Government (TTS)
This bulletin provides the results of the transport and travel related questions asked in the Scottish Household Survey (SHS) and uses data from a range of sources to provide context.
The SHS is a continuous survey, conducted annually since 1999. It includes a travel diary (TD) that asks people to recount details of all the journeys they made the previous day.
TTS also presents the responses to questions asked in the general social survey.
In 2019, there were around 9,800 respondents to the SHS.
Annual Cycling Monitoring Report Scotland, Cycling Scotland (ACMRScot)
This is an annual publication that reports on the national indicators used to monitor progress towards the goals set by the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland (CAPS). It uses several sources, including TTS, SHS (see above) and road casualty figures. It offers detailed reports on local areas.
Cycling in Northern Ireland, Department for Infrastructure (DfI), Northern Ireland (CNI)
CNI is based on the answers to cycling-related questions the DfI has commissioned the Northern Ireland Continuous Household Survey (CHS) to ask since 2016/17.
In the 2017/18 CHS, 2,785 respondents were asked if they had access to a bicycle.
The DfI also publishes Walking and cycling to and/or from work in Northern Ireland, likewise based on the CHS.
Travel Survey Northern Ireland, Department for Infrastructure (DfI), (TSNI)
TSNI, which started in 1999, collects information on how and why people travel via a seven-day travel diary and a computer interview. Everyone in a household (including children) are eligible, and the results are published annually in three reports: in-depth, headline and technical.
From 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2018, 2,776 households and 5,344 persons were interviewed. (As the sample size is relatively small, three years of data have to be combined to allow for robust analysis).