Public demand bigger bike budgets

couple with bike helmets in park in Birmingham

“It’s healthy, adventurous, [good for] exploring, saves money.” Rob, Birmingham

woman in Belfast

“It is pretty much the fastest way of getting somewhere in commuting time.” Doris, Belfast

man with bikes in Newcastle

“[Riding a bike] helps wake me up on the way to work and clears my head on the way home.” Matthew, Newcastle

21 October 2015

Bike Life, the biggest survey ever conducted on attitudes to cycling in the UK, shows that three quarters (75%) of people want national governments to invest more in making cycling safer.

We commissioned independent research, along with seven leading cities across the UK, which has revealed that the 11,000 people questioned wanted on average £26 per person to be spent on cycling annually, as part of the £300 per person currently spent on transport.

The message from the public couldn’t be clearer: there’s a desire to cycle more, but that a lack of safe places to ride bikes is off-putting.

-  Jason Torrance, Policy Director at Sustrans

The public’s desired level of government investment (average by location):

  • Belfast: £25
  • Birmingham: £34
  • Bristol: £24
  • Cardiff: £24
  • Edinburgh: £23
  • Manchester: £25
  • Newcastle: £26
  • UK average: £26

Even people who don’t ride a bike recognise the importance of building bike lanes and funding other projects to boost cycling.

  • 71% of those who said that they never used a bike still backed an increase, rising to 87% among those frequently riding a bike
  •  Support was consistently high across all demographics, including older people aged over 75 who are the least likely to ride a bike, at 65%
  • Around three quarters of people (73%) think that things would be better if people cycled more
  • Two thirds (67%) of people believe that more cycling would make their area a better place to live and work

Jason Torrance, Policy Director at Sustrans, said:

“People want governments to spend more, and say that they would cycle more if it were safer. Now governments must close this gap between current spending and public demand.

“Physical inactivity, congestion and declining air quality cost our economy billions. Governments must act to secure a greater share of current transport investment for cycling and walking.

“The Spending Review in November and the devolved elections next May are perfect opportunities to do just that. Government must ensure the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is ambitious and guarantees long-term funding for active travel.”

The figures come from the groundbreaking Bike Life Survey, which tracks the travel habits and opinions of thousands of people across seven UK cities: Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Greater Manchester and Newcastle.

The report is based on the Copenhagen Bicycle Account, which helped to make Denmark’s capital one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities.

Copenhagen uses these surveys, conducted every two years, as part of its planning process to identify areas where cycle lanes are most in demand. It is hoped that the same can be achieved with the Bike Life Survey.

Copenhagen has produced the reports since 1996 and they have helped planners gradually remove barriers to cycling. As a result 45% of journeys to work, school and university are now made by bike. The Danish capital of Copenhagen was recently voted as the happiest city in the world and a third of its residents feel safe enough to travel by bicycle for everyday journeys.

Sustrans believes that UK cities have the potential to achieve the same.

Sustrans worked with local councils to gather views from the public about cycling in the cities and find out what would encourage more people to try two-wheeled travel. The results have now been released to inform future investment into cycling in the cities.

ICM Unlimited carried out the survey and interviewed a representative sample of 11,016 adults aged 16+, ensuring at least 1,100 were questioned in each city (Greater Manchester had 4,000 respondents).

The survey was partially funded by the The Freshfield Foundation, and will be followed-up with a second report in 2017.

Check out the Bike Life reports and key findings.

Join our campaign: If you live in England, call on David Cameron to honour his pledge to clearly identify funding for cycling.