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.