Research published by the official statistics agency of the European Union (EU), Eurostat, shows that the UK has the equal third lowest levels of daily cycling among the 28 member states, on a par with Luxembourg and Spain at 4 per cent and with only Cyprus and Malta scoring lower.
A further 10 per cent of people in the UK said they cycle a few times a week and 17 per cent a few times a month or less often, while the proportion that said they never cycle was joint sixth-highest, at 69 per cent.
The Netherlands had the highest levels people agreeing they cycle daily or a few times a week – respectively, 43 per cent and 28 per cent.
But while Denmark ranked second highest for getting on their bikes each day, at 30 per cent, once that figure was added to the one for riding a few times a week, they were edged into third spot by Finland.
The findings are contained in a special Eurobarometer report called Attitudes of Europeans Towards Urban Mobility, published in December 2013, which also found that UK citizens are by far the most pessimistic in Europe about urban traffic congestion in the future.
The survey was based on a sample of 27,680 people throughout the 28 member states – 1,314 of them in the UK – who were interviewed by TNS Opinion & Social face to face in their homes in May and June 2013.
Kevin Mayne, who spent 14 years as chief executive of national cyclists’ organisation CTC before moving to the European Cyclists’ Federation in early 2012 as development director, said that the figures showed the UK was losing further ground on its fellow European member states when it comes to cycling.
He told Local Transport Today: “In 2010 Eurobarometer asked a similar question about mode of transport and the UK was 21st in the cycling table, so these latest figures can be interpreted as a relative drop.
“EU data shows that strengths in sport and leisure cycling do not translate to daily cycling anywhere in the EU but the lack of growth in UK daily cycling is especially noticeable,” he added.
Source: TNS Opinion & Social/Eurostat
Respondents were also asked which measures could be implemented to improve travel within cities.
UK residents’ levels of agreement were in line with the EU average on issues such as “improved cycling facilities” (UK 32 per cent vs EU average 33 per cent), “improved walking facilities” (26 per cent vs 27 per cent) and “lower speed limits” (16 per cent).
One issue of major concern to cycling campaigners saw UK response levels well below the average across all 27 member states, however – “access restrictions for certain types of vehicles eg trucks” gained support from 19 per cent to UK respondents, against an EU average of 27 per cent.
Agreement for that statement was highest in the Czech Republic, at 51 per cent, and lowest in Finland, with 13 per cent.
Survey participants were quizzed on how effective they thought such measures might be, and while two in three people in the UK did agree that they would be “very effective” (19 per cent) or “fairly effective” (47 per cent), the combined figure put the UK higher than only Sweden, Germany, Spain and Finland.
Only in areas concerned with public transport did levels of support from UK citizens score higher than the EU average. Those were “lower prices for public transport” (68 per cent vs 59 per cent) and “better public transport” (66 per cent vs 56 per cent).
People in the UK were the most pessimistic across the entire EU about what will happen to traffic in urban areas in the future.
Some 61 per cent of respondents from this country stated that the traffic situation in cities will get worse, and 19 per cent that it will stay the same, against EU average scores of 37 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.