A new Department for Transport commissioned study from Sustrans reaches the fairly straightforward conclusion that investing in urban cycling increases the number of cycle trips taken. Increasing the level of cycling in our towns and cities is “very much possible” concludes the charity before calling for sustained investment.
The study, conducted in partnership with Transport for Quality of Life, Cavill Associates and University of the West of England, found that trips by bike increased in 18 towns and cities in England following government investment.
The Cycling City and Towns programme ran in 12 towns and cities from 2008-2011 and automatic count data showed that cycling trips increased by 24 per cent over three years and on average by 8 per cent a year.
The largest increases were seen in Stoke-on-Trent (62 per cent) and Greater Bristol (40 per cent), with growth also achieved even in areas like York (6 per cent) and Cambridge (9 per cent) where there was already a relatively high level of cycling.
The Cycling Demonstration Towns follow-on programme saw six towns receive investment in 2005-2008 and again in 2008-2011. Cycling trips increased by 29 per cent over five years and by 5 per cent per annum. Darlington (59 per cent) and Exeter (45 per cent) saw particularly high rates of growth.
The overall annual expenditure per head of population was £14 for just under three years in the 12 towns and cities, and £17 for five-and-a-half years in the six Cycling Demonstration Towns.
Dr Andy Cope, Director of Insight, Research & 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 – now a Board Member of Transport for London, but formerly a Board Member of Cycling England, which delivered both programmes – said: “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.”