Cycling UK's Cycling Statistics
Cycling UK continues to support the UK to cycle
This remains true during this difficult period with the ongoing threat of coronavirus Covid-19
- How much cycling is there compared to other kinds of 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 on average, and how far do they go each time?
- How many people own or have access to a cycle?
- 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 proportion of people cycle to work?
- Occupation, income, ethnicity and impairment
- How many drivers cycle? And how many cyclists drive?
- What kinds of roads are people most likely to cycle on?
- Which local areas see the most cycling?
- How do the levels of cycling in the UK compare to those in other European countries?
- How many cycles are sold in Great Britain?
- What's the average weekly household spend on bikes?
- How risky is cycling?
- How many cycles are stolen in the UK?
- More on our sources, with key.
1. How much cycling is there compared to other kinds of transport, and is it increasing?
Proportion of traffic
Great Britain (2018):
Cycling made up only 1% of the mileage accumulated by all vehicular road traffic. In comparison, cars and taxis accounted for 77%. (TRA 0104; 0402).
Proportion of road traffic (vehicle miles) by vehicle type, 2018 Cars and taxis Light commercial vehicles Heavy goods vehicles Motorcycles Buses & coaches Cycles
|Cycle use as a proportion of all vehicle miles, 2018|
|Motor vehicle bvm||Cycle bvm||All bvm (motor + cycle)||% cycled|
|* bvm = billion vehicle miles|
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).
Great Britain (1949-2018)
Cycle traffic has been trending upwards since 1993. (TRA 0403).
England, Scotland & Wales: cycle traffic estimates, 1993-2018 England Wales Scotland
We’ve seen a very, very steep fall since 1949, however, when cycle traffic was estimated to be around 14.7 billion vehicle miles. At least traffic counts suggest that the number of miles cycled in 2018 – 3.33 billion – is around 32% higher than it was 20 years ago. (TRA 0401).
Great Britain: cycle traffic estimates, 1949-2018
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 162,000 in 2017 – six times as many. (This is a drop on 2016, when 184,000 bicycles were counted crossing the cordon):
London: trend in cycle flows across central cordon, 1977-2017
Source: Travel in London report 11, TfL. (Fig. 5.6)
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).
Northern Ireland: estimated cycle mileage, 1999-2018
Proportion of trips
England (2002- 2018)
In 2018, cycling accounted for 1.7% of all trips. This figure has hardly changed for at least the last 17 years. (NTS 0409).
England: cycling as a proportion of all journeys, 2002-2018
In 2018, 1.4% of journeys were made by bicycle as the ‘main mode’. This is a slight drop on 2017 (1.5%), and slightly more than in 2015 and 2016. (TTS Table TD2).
Scotland: cycling as a proportion of all journeys, 1999-2018
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).
Northern Ireland: cycling as a proportion of all journeys, 2008-2018
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.
2. How many people cycle and how often?
|Proportion of people (16+) who cycle for travel by frequency, 2017-2018 (England)|
|How often in the last four weeks? (at least)||%||Millions of people|
|Five times a week||2.0||0.8|
|Three times a week||3.2||1.3|
|Once a week||6.1||2.4|
|Once a month||7.7||3.1|
Source: CW 0302
|Proportion of people (16+) who cycle as a means of transport by frequency, 2018-2019 (Wales)|
|How often in the last three months?||%|
|Several times a week||2.0|
|Once or twice a week||2.3|
|Once or twice a month||3.6|
|Proportion of people (16+) who cycle as a means of transport by frequency, 2016 (Scotland)|
|How often in the last seven days?||%|
Source: TTS (SHS Transport Table 3a)
Note: these results come originally from the Scottish Household Survey, which has not asked this question since 2016. The plan is to ask it again in 2019.
Northern Ireland (2017-2018)
|Proportion of people (16+) who did any cycling, 2017-2018 (Northern Ireland)|
|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)
All the data above apply to people aged 16+, and cover cycling for transport rather than for recreational or sports purposes (except for Northern Ireland – the results come from answers to a question asking people to report on ‘any’ cycling they’ve done).
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 5-6% of the population aged 16+ in Great Britain as a whole ride their bikes at least once a week or more for transport purposes = 2.3 – 2.8 million people.*
* Until 2017, the British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey asked people aged 18+ how often they usually cycled nowadays. This is no longer the case. The BSA results for 2017 suggested that 12% of people aged 18+ travelled by bicycle ‘at least weekly’ (sample size 2,963/Table ATT0305), but caution must always be exercised over comparing the findings of different surveys.
3. How may people don't cycle much, if ever?
Well over four-fifths of the UK’s population aged 16 and above – 42+ million people at the very least – rarely cycle, if ever:
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 (2017-2018)||Last four weeks||80.9|
|Wales (2018-2019)||Last three months||90.8|
|Scotland (2016)||Last seven days||94.1|
|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).
4. How many cycle trips do people make on average, and how far do they go each time?
- Each person made 986 trips by 'all modes' (i.e. car, bike, public transport, walking etc.). (NTS 0409).
- Each person made 17 trips by cycle during the year (all age groups); and cycled 57 miles. These figures factor in people who don’t cycle, though. (NTS 0409). Those who do ride averaged many more trips and many more miles: around 333 trips and 1,104 miles. (NTS 0314).
- Each person made 394 trips by car or van, and drove 3,244 miles. (NTS 0409).
- The average length of a cycle trip was 3.3 miles, while the average length of a car trip was 8.2 miles. (NTS 0303).
|Car and cycle use, average per person during 2018 (England)|
|Car/van driver||Cycle||All modes|
|Average number of trips||395||17||986|
|Average trip length (miles)||8.2||3.3||7|
- Each person made 903 trips by 'all modes' (i.e. car, bike, public transport, walking etc.).
- Each person made 7 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, while the average length of a car trip was 7.8 miles.
|Car and cycle use, average per person per year during 2016-2018 (Northern Ireland)|
|Car driver||Cycle||All modes|
|Average number of trips||439||7||903|
|Average trip length (miles)||7.8||4.7||6.5|
All the above figures come from TSNI Tables 1 & 2.
A note on Scotland & Wales: comparable data is not available.
5. How many people own or have access to a cycle?
- England: 42% of people aged 5+ own or have access to a bicycle = c.20 million people; at 83%, bike ownership is much more likely among children aged 5-10 than for any other age group. (NTS 0608, figures from 2016/18).
- Wales: 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, figures from 2013/14).
- Scotland: 35% of households have one or more bicycles that can be used by adults. (TTS SHS Transport Table 18, figures from 2018).
- Northern Ireland: 36% of people aged 16+ own or have use of a bicycle. (CNI Table 1a, figures from 2017/18).
6. Who cycles most - women or men?
• Males of all ages made 2.5 times as many cycle trips as females (25 as opposed to ten). (NTS 0601);
• Males also cycled 3.6 times as many miles (92 as opposed to 25 for females). (NTS 0601):
|Average number of cycle trips & yearly cycle mileage by gender 2018 (England)|
Women are less than half as likely to cycle once or twice a week than males:
|How often used bike to get somewhere by gender 2018/19 (Wales)|
|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%|
4.1% of men and 1.6% women cycled 1-2 days a week as a means of transport; and 5% of men and 2.6% of women cycled 1-2 days a week just for pleasure or to keep fit (TTS16 SHS Table 25b - the survey will ask this question again from 2019).
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).
7. Which age group cycles most?
Not surprisingly, 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 were 16-24 year-olds (9.4%). Next down were 25-34 and 35-44 year-olds, both at 8%. (CW 0305).
England: proportion of people who cycle for travel at least once a week by age group, 2017/18
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 Chart 4).
When asked in 2016 whether they’d cycled as a means of transport in the last seven days, people who were 20-29 or 30-38 were more likely than the others to say they had (8%-9%):
Scotland: proportion of people who cycle as a means of transport by age group, 2016 *
(TTS16 SHS Table 25b - the survey will ask this question again from 2019).
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).
Northern Ireland: proportion of people who cycle by age group, 2017/18 *
Note: the sample size for 16-24 year-olds was too small for analysis.
8. What's the purpose of most trips?
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 (CW 0302):
|England (2017/18): 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 2018 seemed to be focusing most on leisure and shopping. (NTS 0409):
|England (2018): average number of trips per person per year during the year by purpose and main mode|
|Purpose||Cycle||Walk||Car/van driver||Car/van passenger||All modes (inc. motorcycles & public transport)|
|Education / escort education||2||53||27||29||126|
|Other including just walk||0||62||-||-||62|
|* 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 travel or pleasure purposes, people were slightly more likely to say they’d cycled for travel 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 (2016): frequency of cycling in the previous seven days|
|1-2 days||3-5 days||6-7 days||1+ days|
|Just for pleasure||3.8%||1.9%||0.8%||6.5%|
|As a means of transport||2.8%||2.1%||1.0%||5.9%|
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):
Wales: purpose of most recent active travel journey by cycle as a percentage, 2014-15
A note on Northern Ireland: data on the purpose of cycle trips are not readily available.
9. What proportion of children cycle to school and how far do they travel?
- Around 2% of 5-10 year-olds, and 4% of aged 11-16 year-olds cycled to and from school.
- For all 5-16 year-olds, just under 3% cycled to and from school. This is a higher figure than it’s been since 1995/97 – it’s ranged from 1% to 2% over this period – but involves so few children that year-on-year fluctuations should be viewed with some caution.
England: how children travel to and from school, 2018 Walk Bicycle Car / van Private bus Local bus Surface rail Other transport
- Walking (44%) and cars/vans (36%) 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).
- The average distance travelled for education purposes was just 2.4 miles.
All the above figures come from NTS 0613.
- Travel for education contributed significantly to peak time traffic: from 2014-18, it was responsible for about 29% of trips between 8 and 9 am, with an additional 22% escorting others to education. (NTS 0502).
According to a 'hands-up survey', 5.2% of children indicated that they normally cycle to primary school, while 1.4% said they cycle to secondary school:
Scotland: how children travel to and from school, 2018 Walk Cycle Scooter / Skate Park & Stride Driven Bus Taxi Other
- According to Transport and Travel in Scotland, 1.9% of children in full time education usually cycled to and from school (3% of 4-11 year-olds, and 1% of 12-18 year-olds.) (TTS Table 15).
- Less than 1% of primary aged children typically cycled to school (this figure was 2% in 2013/14). 57% went by car, and 44% walked.
- The proportion of secondary pupils typically cycling to school was about the same – less than 1%. 31% went by car or taxi, 33% used the school bus, while 33% walked.
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
10. What proportion of people cycle to work?
- In England, around 4% commuting trips were cycled, a figure that has changed very little over the last few years. About two-thirds drove or were driven. (NTS 0412):
England: commuting to work, 2018 Walk Bicycle Car / Van / Taxi Motorcycle Bus Rail Other
- 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.
- 2.8% of employed adults commuted by cycle, while 68% drove or were driven. (TTS, Table 7 (SS)).
Scotland: commuting to work, 2018 Walk Bicycle Driver / Passenger Bus Rail Other
- When asked ‘what mode of transport do you typically use to get to work?’, 4% respondents to the National Survey of Wales said they cycled. Over three-quarters (76%), said they usually went by car. (Update not yet available). (NSW)
Northern Ireland (2015-2017)
- 1% of journeys to work were cycled, while 81% were driven:
Northern Ireland: commuting to work, 2015-2017 Walk Bicycle Car / Van / Taxi Bus Train
TSNI in-depth report 2015-2017 (in-depth report for 2016-2018 will probably be published in 2020).
11. Occupation, income, ethnicity and impairment
Note: cycling-related data on occupation, income, ethnicity and impairment is not published by every government.
- Full-time students were more likely to cycle at least three times a week than other people with occupations - 8.3% of them;
- Next down were people with lower supervisory/technical or managerial, admin/professional jobs - about the same at 7% of them respectively;
- 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’.
England: cycling at least three times a week by occupation, aged 16+, 2017-2018 Cycling for travel Cycling for leisure Any cycling
- People in the highest real income level made 21 trips on average a year, suggesting that they were more likely to cycle than any other income group.
England: cycle trips per person per year by household income quintile, 2018
- People who identified themselves as ‘White Other'/’mixed’ were more likely to cycle at least three times a week than any other ethnic group:
England: cycling at least three times a week by ethnicity, aged 16+, 2017-2018 Cycling for travel Cycling for leisure Any cycling
- 6.6% of people with no disability cycled three times a week, compared to 2.6% with a limiting disability:
England: cycling at least three times a week by impairment, aged 16+, 2017-2018 Cycling for travel Cycling for leisure Any cycling
Source for employment, ethnicity and impairment tables: CW 0305
Source for income table NTS 0705.
- In terms of net household income, the likelihood of usually travelling to work by cycle is a mixed picture:
Scotland: proportion of people cycling to work by net household income, 2018
- People who identified themselves as ‘White Polish’ were usually more likely to travel to work by cycle than other ethnic groups (TTS Table 7 (SS)):
Scotland: proportion of people cycling to work by ethnicity, 2018
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).
Northern Ireland (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.
- Those who were economically active and those who weren’t were equally likely to cycle (27%).
Northern Ireland: proportion of people with use of a cycle who have/have not ridden in the last four weeks by disability and economic activity, 2018 Yes, have cycled in the last four weeks No, have not cycled in the last four weeks
12. How many drivers cycle? And how many cyclists drive?
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 (i.e. they hadn’t given up driving).
Note: this data is derived 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”.
13. What kinds of roads are people most likely to cycle on?
Great Britain (2018)
On average each year, over four-fifths of cycling takes place on minor roads, and 58% on urban minor roads:
|Great Britain, 2014-2018: cycle traffic by road class, yearly average|
|Billion vehicle miles||%|
|Rural 'A' roads||0.12||4%|
|Urban 'A' roads||0.45||14%|
|All major roads||0.57||17%|
|Rural minor roads||0.82||25%|
|Urban minor roads||1.90||58%|
|All minor roads||2.72||83%|
|TOTAL (All major + minor roads)||3.30||100%|
Source: Road Traffic Great Britain (TRA 0402)
Note: the above table reflects cycling on roads only, i.e. not off-road on bridleways or byways etc.
14. Which local areas see the most cycling?
Note: each of these tables uses a different measurement.
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, 2017/2018: proportion of adults cycling at least three times a week - top 20 local authorities|
|Isle of Scilly *||28.0%|
|Richmond upon Thames||13.7%|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||13.3%|
|Bristol, City of||12.4%|
|Brighton and Hove||10.6%|
|Average for England = 5.5%|
|* Sample sizes for the Isles of Scilly are very small and caution is needed when interpreting these results|
Note: Figures for individual authorities fluctuate quite a bit from year to year, so the date above aren'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.
People in Edinburgh and Highland were more likely to cycle to work usually/regularly than in any other authority. The average for Scotland was 4.9%. (ACMRScot). The top five are:
|Scotland, 2017: proportion of people cycling to work at least regularly: top five local authorities|
|Average for Scotland = 4.9%|
The local authority areas that saw the highest proportion of people cycling more often than once a month were (ATCWWales):
|Wales, 2017/2018: active travel by bicycle, more often than once a month, by local authority|
|Average for Wales = 9.1%|
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 1% to 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||3.22%|
|Newry, Mourne & Down||2.96%|
|Antrim & Newtownabbey||2.50%|
|Derry & Strabane||2.47%|
|Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon||2.37%|
|Causeway Coast & Glens||2.15%|
|North Down & Ards||2.11%|
|Fermanagh & Omagh||1.85%|
|Lisburn & Castlereagh||1.62%|
15. How do the levels of cycling in the UK compare to those in other European countries?
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 Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis/KiM.
16. How many cycles are sold in Great Britain?
In general, data on cycle sales in the UK are based on official import statistics published by HMRC. There is no other freely available source, although the Bicycle Association does offer exclusive access to market intelligence for its members (almost all of which are businesses).
An annual report produced by the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry (CONEBI) gathers reports from EU countries, including the UK. Largely based on HMRC figures, Bicycle Association findings and informal estimates, this says that in Great Britain:
- Just over 3 million+ cycles were sold 2016 (3.5 million in 2015 and 3.6 in 2014). The small decline in sales in 2015 was put down to ‘natural variability’, but the figure in 2016 represented a c20% drop on the previous five-year average. Although there is some speculation about why this might have happened (correction of over-supply in earlier years, the children’s scooter boom, Brexit etc.), no single cause has been identified;
- In 2016, more cycles were sold than in any of the other EU 28, except for Germany at just over 4 million (note, size of population is a factor here);
- Although still small, the e-bike market appears to be growing rapidly. 75,000 units were sold in 2016;
- The vast majority of cycles sold are imported, mainly from the Far East;
- Around 83,000 cycles a year are manufactured, the main maker being Brompton;
- 30% of cycles sold are children’s; 30% MTBs; 10% road; 26% classic/hybrid; 4% folding/'other’;
- Bike sales account for about half of the total retail value of the cycle market; the other half is made up of sales of parts & accessories including tyres, clothing, and from repairs and maintenance;
- The average price of a bike (including e-bikes) is around €521 (about £480).
In 2016, more new cycles were sold in Great Britain than new cars registered: 3 million cycles + v 2.7 million cars (Government's vehicle licensing statistics,Table VEH 0150).
17. What's the average weekly household spend on bikes?
Obviously, how much each household spends on transport varies widely, but it was around £80.80 a week on average in 2018. Only a tiny amount of this goes on bicycles - not needing to buy fuel is, of course, a big saving.
|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|
Source: Office for National Statistics: Family Spending (Table A1, section 7).
18. How risky is cycling?
Is cycling really that dangerous?
No. In general, cycling in Britain is a relatively safe activity. From 2014-2018:
- From 2014-2018, one cyclist was killed and forty-four cyclists were killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads for every 33 million miles travelled by cycle - the equivalent to well over 1,000 times around the world (RRCGB RAS30001 & TRA 0403).
- Based on figures from the English National Travel Survey (NTS), there were around nine million cycle trips for every cyclist fatality (RRCGB RAS30001 & NTS 0303).
- Again, based on figures from the NTS, the general risk of injury of any severity whilst cycling was just 0.05 per 1,000 hours of cycling (RRCGB RAS30001 & NTS 0303).
- 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).
Despite this, many people are put off cycling because they think it's unsafe:
- Around 60% of the British population agree/strongly agree that it is too dangerous for them to cycle on the roads. (NTAS 0101).
Nevertheless, 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 2008. In contrast, the year-on-year trend for serious injuries is mixed, and the rate was higher in 2018 than it was ten years earlier. (RRCGB RAS30001 & TRA 0403):
Great Britain: cyclists killed per billion miles cycled, 2008-2018
Great Britain: cyclists seriously injured per billion miles cycled, 2008-2018
For more background on cyclist road casualties, see:
- Cycling UK blog on the Dept for Transport's 'Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2018' (published September 2019)
- Dept for Transport's useful summary, Pedal cycling road safety fact sheet (2018)
In absolute numbers, reported cyclist casualties are as follows (RRCGB RAS 30001 and RAS 30034):
|Great Britain: Cyclist casualties, 2010-2018|
|Seriously injured (unadjusted)||3,102||3,085||3,222||3,143||3,401||3,239||3,397||3,698||3,707|
|Seriously injured (adjusted) *||4,242||4,204||4,339||4,307||4,697||4,324||4,081||4,113||4,106|
|KSI (adjusted) *||4,354||4,311||4,457||4,416||4,810||4,424||4,183||4,214||4,205|
|Slightly injured (unadjusted)||16,029||16,023||15,571||16,186||17,773||15,505||14,978||14,522||13,744|
|Slightly injured (adjusted) *||14,890||14,904||14,634||15,022||16,477||14,420||14,294||14,107||13,345|
*'Adjusted' figures: the DfT supplies figures that have been adjusted to account for changes in the way many police forces have reported on severity reporting systems since 2016. Generally speaking, this made the police more likely to record injuries as serious than slight. DfT recommends using adjusted figures for analysing trends over time.
|UK: cyclist casualties 2018 (unadjusted figures)|
|Killed||Seriously injured||Slightly injured||All|
How risky is cycling when compared to other forms of transport?
For the past three years (and, in fact, for a while before that), figures suggest that pedestrians were more likely than cyclists to be killed on the roads per mile travelled. It is the other way round if you add in serious injuries, and the margin is much bigger.
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 (RRCGB RAS 30070):
|Great Britain: relative risk of different forms of transport, 2016-2018 - casualty rate per billion vehicle miles|
|Killed||Killed or seriously injured||Killed||Killed or seriously injured||Killed||Killed or seriously injured|
19. How many bikes are stolen in the UK?
Bike security is a serious concern for cyclists and anyone who's thinking of taking up cycling - thousands of machines are stolen every year.
England & Wales
- According to a household survey, there were around 287,000 victims of bicycle theft from July 2018 to June 2019, down 49% on 1995.
Not every bike theft incident is reported to or recorded by the police. Over the same period, the police recorded 97,512 bicycle theft crimes.
Estimates suggest that about 23,000 bicycle theft crimes were committed in 2017-2018, affecting approximately 0.8% of households. (Note: this comes from a crime survey, not police records).
Source Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2017-2018: main findings. (Tables A1.1 & A1.5).
Estimates for 2017/18 suggest that: around 1% of bicycle owners became the victims of theft, and there were around 3,000 incidents of bicycle theft.
The police recorded 918 bicycle thefts between October 2018 and September 2019.
20. More on our sources, with key
England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all produce statistics, but their approaches are different. The surveys that collect travel data, for example, do not necessarily ask the same sort of questions. Also, some questions are not asked every year, the questionnaires are issued at different times and at different frequencies, and the results are published at different times of year. It is therefore important to exercise care when comparing figures and to be aware that certain data may not be collected by some government administrations.
KEY to our main sources
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)
RRCGB = Reported Road Casualties Great Britain
TRA = Road Traffic Statistics (GB)
TSNI = Travel Survey for Northern Ireland
TTS = Transport and Travel in Scotland
More about our main sources
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 (RRCGB)
These are annual road casualty statistics released twice each year (the main results appear in June, followed 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 provide figures relating specifically to England, Wales, Scotland and (very occasionally) to Northern Ireland. The devolved nations also published road 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, Department for Transport (NTS)
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.
The NTS is part of a continuous survey that began in 1988. Until 2013, it covered the whole of Britain, but England alone thereafter.
Around 7,000 households participated in 2018.
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. It is much bigger than the NTS, with around 180,000 adults (aged 16+) taking part in 2017-18. The survey now offers three years’ worth of data (2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18).
CW are a particularly useful source of data on cycling and walking frequencies in every local authority area in England.
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).
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 survey. In 2018, there were around 9,700 respondents to the SHS.
Annual Cycling Monitoring Report Scotland, Cycling Scotland (ACMRScot)
This is an annual publication from Cycling Scotland 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, and CNI is based on what they said.
Travel Survey Northern Ireland, Department for Infrastructure (DfI), Northern Ireland (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.
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).
- 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.