Cycling investment the way ahead for towns and cities

cyclists on segregated path

Cycling levels increased in 18 towns and cities following investment

19 July 2017

New study shows investing in urban cycling increases cycle trips.

A new study shows trips by bike have increased in 18 cities and towns in England following a programme to encourage cycling for shorter urban journeys.

The study measured the impact of two government funded programmes of investment in cycling. It showed trips by bike increased across both programmes overall and also in each town and city by different amounts.

The Cycling City and Towns programme ran in 12 towns and cities from 2008-2011. Automatic count data shows cycling trips increased by 24% over three years and on average by 8% per year.

The largest increases were in Stoke-on-Trent (62%) and Greater Bristol (40%), with further growth achieved even in areas with already very high levels of cycling such as York (6%) and Cambridge (9%).

The Cycling Demonstration Towns follow-on programme in six towns received investment in 2005-2008 and again in 2008-2011. Cycling trips increased by 29% over five years and by 5% per annum. Darlington (59%) and Exeter (45%) showed particularly high rates of growth.

The overall annual expenditure per head of population was £14 for just under three years in 12 towns and cities, and £17 for five-and-a-half years in the six remaining areas. The towns and cities tailored the content of their investment programmes according to their respective needs.

While some towns and cities concentrated more heavily on building new routes and networks, others had a package of promotion and engagement eg. training programmes, alongside route development.

The study was commissioned by the Department for Transport and it was conducted by Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity, in partnership with Transport for Quality of Life, Cavill Associates and University of the West of England.

Dr Andy Cope, Director of Insight, Research and Monitoring Unit at Sustrans, said:

“The evidence of the study is clear – increasing levels of cycling in our towns and cities is very much possible.

“The growth in cycle trips in the participating towns and cities reflects the fact that investment comparable to that spent in Denmark and the Netherlands stimulates changes in levels of cycling. The study also indicates sustained long-term commitment to investment in cycling is key to growing cycle use.

“We can confidently say the results of the programmes are replicable in towns and cities across the UK. If we want to build on this success, we need strong leadership and long-term commitment from both national and local governments.”

Lynn Sloman, a Board Member of Transport for London and a former Board Member of Cycling England, said:

“Both programmes enabled a whole new way of thinking about cycling investment to develop – we realised that it was essential to tackle all of multiple reasons why people did not cycle.

“If we really want to achieve ‘lift off’ for cycling, we need a sustained investment programme targeting the same places over at least one decade, and ideally two.

“It’s about time that Transport Ministers stepped up their ambition for high quality, long-term, proactively-led cycling investment programmes that made best possible use of public money. Then we might really start to look like a cycling country.”

It is hoped the findings will help strengthen the case for investment in cycling and inspire, and encourage programmes that get more people on their bikes. 

See the full study and city reports

For more information, images and interviews please contact:
Anna Galandzij, Senior Press Officer at Sustrans, [email protected], 07557 915648
Amy Jones, Press and Media Officer at Sustrans, [email protected], 07768 035318