Tuesday, August 3, 2010

National Travel Survey - Cycling Up?

The CTC say that the National Travel Survey shows cycling has grown to the 'highest level in decades'.

Well, this blog may not be politically correct, but I like to think it is at least numerate.

From the Survey, in terms of the number of trips, cycle use has been in steady decline since 1995. Between 2008 and 2009 it went down, and the longer-term trend is definitely down, on any reasonable interpretation.

Now let's look at distance travelled. The total distance travelled by cycle per person has gone up. See the following statistics for miles cycled per person per year:
95-97 : 43
98-00 : 40
02 : 36
03 : 37
04 : 39
05 : 36
06 : 39
07 : 40
08 : 42
09 : 46

So the number of miles cycled seems to have dipped to a low between 2002 and 2005, and then risen. It's a little higher than the 1995 number, but not by much.
Next you have to ask the question: is this a long-term upward trend, or is it a blip on a long-term downward trend? We know that recessions are good for cycling, so you could interpret the recent rise as economically-determined. And the CTC acknowledge this. Another possible factor is the boom in cycling as a sport. I don't have any figures, but I see a lot more road bikes in the shops and on the roads than I used to.

However, I still maintain that as a transport option there are three causal factors behind any increase in cycling levels, and they boil down to the alternatives getting worse. Public transport overcrowding, unreliability and fare rises, fear of terrorism outweighing fear of motorists, and the congestion charge making motoring expensive.
So it'll be interesting to see if the new age of austerity results in cycling being promoted by fare rises and disinvestment in public transport, or suppressed by non-enforcement of road traffic law and lack of investment in infrastructure.

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