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A fifth ride at least once a week & transport cycling makes up 40% of total

Almost nine million people in the UK ride a bike regularly, a new survey claims, making cycling the number three participation sport in the UK after swimming and running.

The claim comes from sports research firm Sports Marketing Surveys Inc (SMS Inc) which says that 16.9% of adults in the UK are cyclists, with the average participant cycling 48.9 times in the past year. One fifth of the 8,741,000 UK cyclists ride at least once per week.

That claim roughly matches figures published last year by Sport England which showed that 2,003,000 people had ridden a bike in the period October 2012 to October 2013, up by 137,000 from the period April 2012 to April 2013.

However, Sport England’s Active People survey specifically excluded cycling for transport, while SMS counts people commuting and simply getting from A to B. Comparisons are further muddied by SMS looking at the UK (64 million people), while Sport England just surveys a sample of England's 53 million. 

SMS Inc says road cycling is the most popular type of riding, with 80 percent of riders on the tarmac. However, some might say they've confused cycling and cycle sport as they mention that the most common reason for cycling is for recreational purposes, while over 40% cycle for commuting and transportation.

Twenty-two percent of under-18s ride, according to SMS whose managing director John Bushell said: “Cycling is the growth sport in the UK and our report shows no signs of that slowing down. The insight into youth participation, along with positive involvement from the older age groups, is testament to the healthy state of the sport.

“The boom has been well documented.”

Cycle sport my well be on the up, as the seemingly unstoppable rise in sportive participation suggests, but the proportion of journeys undertaken by bike in the UK remains stuck at two percent after declining steeply since the 1950s.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

10 comments

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mrmo [2092 posts] 2 years ago
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curious, about the back ground to this, according to Strava I have been on 383 rides this year. obviously I commute so lots of two rides per day.

40% of survey commute yet the average is only 49 rides per year, not denying the numbers are what they are, just not completely sure what they are saying. one ride a week seems very low with that percentage claiming to commute. And the final line about 2% of journeys when c8% claim to commute/transport, (40% of 16.9%) all seems a bit of creativity from responders.

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Simmo72 [645 posts] 2 years ago
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The problem is for every good cyclist there is an arsehole driving a motor vehcile with no regard for other users. For instance the idiot behind me this morning in his white van who was busy texting and picking his nose (a real rummage) whilst managing to squeeze in just about staying in lane. I was tempted to flick the brakes just to see if his reaction would result in his index finger being driven through the chicken sized brain in his head, but as there were other road users I thought better of it. People like him kill but the police are powerless to get them off the road.

How about at least putting out some hard hitting tv/radio adverts. How about "don't be a twat, keep the phone in your pocket"

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bikebot [2120 posts] 2 years ago
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I find that final paragraph somewhat depressing. We need more cyclists displacing car journeys rather than golf clubs.

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dafyddp [428 posts] 2 years ago
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We do, but if every recreational rider commutes to work just once or twice a week during summer that brings enormous benefits in terms of changing opinions and attitudes. Those same guys who previously sneered at the office cyclists as they drove to the golf cource, now want to be part of the gang. Inclusion is a powerful force for bringing change

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mmag1 [30 posts] 2 years ago
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Simmo72 wrote:

How about at least putting out some hard hitting tv/radio adverts. How about "don't be a twat, keep the phone in your pocket"

WVM on Huntingdon ring road last week texting and smoking a spliff, when I suggested putting the phone down in similar terms to yours he found a free hand. Tweeted @cambscops, no response.

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Blue_Brevatto [37 posts] 2 years ago
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Unless anyone has some hard data to back this up I'd take it with a pinch of salt. I couldn't find a link on their own web-site but I did find the remarkable claim that:

"SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC. (SMS INC.) announces the results of its groundbreaking International Participation Research into running across eleven markets, which reveals that the UK’s running population has reached an impressive 10.5million runners."

Which is pretty much the same % as they find for cyclists and kind of hard to square almost every other piece of research published recently concerning activity and obesity levels. However they kind of give the game away in the next paragraph ...

"The market-leading sports research company’s exclusive venture offers unrivaled insight into the UK running market in 2014, and has concluded that one in five adults run four or more times a year, while 25% of under-18s also qualify as active runners under these criteria"

If you can get past the cloyingly blunt tone of self-promotion you'll see it's a pretty low standard to beat. Being late for the 08.15 to Paddington a couple of days a year and you'd qualify as would anyone who'd ever tried assuming that the bus would never actually run ahead of time in the mornings.

I suspect the cycling data is similarly mis-leading. There's probably a very high percentage of people who have cycled a handful of times in a year. Anyone with kids will have been dragged along the local cycle trail a few times to ensure little Thomas doesn't take out someone else's grandmother with his new Christmas present. And then there's the odd bit of mountain biking on holiday - a quick whizz round the trail at Centre Parcs or some other similarly "safe" environment that might be enjoyable but bears absolutely no relation to actually using your bike as a means of transport or even exercise on UK public roads. None of this amounts to a cycling revolution and anyone who things it is does is deluding themselves (or has an agenda to promote). As someone else pointed out up-thread the modal figures for cycling remain stubbornly around 2% country-wide.

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Northernbike [229 posts] 2 years ago
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''the average participant cycling 48.9 times in the past year''

Is that 0.9 of a ride where you get a puncture a couple of miles out from home and you decide to just walk the last bit and fix it later - looks like we must all get one of those once a year - glad it's not just me

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Gkam84 [9098 posts] 2 years ago
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So nearly 9 million cyclists and British Cycling are cheering and whooping they have 100k members  19 19 19 19 19 19

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gazza_d [469 posts] 2 years ago
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I took this with a pinch of salt, but 20% of 9 million, is about 2 million.
The 40% of that does equate to the near million stated by other surveys for regular commuters.

most of whom are not in my neck of the woods. On a good day I nearly run out of fingers on both hands & that's over 15 miles.

We just need to convert the 60% of regular cyclists to transport, and then the other 6-7 million to riding more regularly.

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Texwade [1 post] 2 years ago
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I can't believe that swimming is more popular than cycling. I swim once a week with my kid (and rarely swim while I am there - usually I am a stood up shark) and while at the pool I reckon there are about 10-15 people on average actually swimming. On my drive to the pool I pass that many cyclists each way and obviously that is just on the roads I am on. Where are all these people swimming ?

I reckon that if anybody has a swim during the Summer holiday it is getting picked up in the statistics. I can believe that more people might swim than cycle during a year but the total participation in hours must be far less ?