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Research highlights contradictory attitudes to cycling… but at least we're cool...

Cycling has become cool, but people who cycle to work aren’t taken as seriously as their car-driving counterparts – that’s according to research commissioned by the Bristol Social Marketing Centre at the University of the West of England (UWE).

Professor Alan Tapp, who commissioned the research, said, “We wanted to find out if cycling is still the 'poor man's transport' populated by badly dressed social misfits muttering about gear ratios, or a fashionable activity of good looking people who rock up to the office with the latest carbon frame. We asked questions about how congestion, global warming and ever rising fuel prices might persuade us out of our cars and back onto two wheels.

“Our findings suggest that most people see Jeremy Clarkson-esque critics of cycling as missing the point. An impressive 42% of the British public think that 'cycling has become cool nowadays', and, good news for those forty-something men with mid-life crises, 38% agree that bike technology is much sexier nowadays. Perhaps surprisingly there was also encouragement for government initiatives, with 43% agreeing that 'there's a new push by the government towards getting people to cycle'.

“These pro cycling feelings might be a symptom of traffic jam stress as much as anything. A whopping 43% of us agreed that 'When I'm stuck in a traffic jam I sometimes wish I were cycling'. The success of the likes of Chris Hoy and Mark Cavendish might be rubbing off on us as well: a surprising 18% of us admit that 'The success of British cyclists has encouraged me to think about cycling more myself'.”

But it’s not all good news. Only 12% of the respondents cycle once a week or more, and 28% still insist that ‘roads are for cars, not bikes’.

The research also explored whether us cyclists see ourselves as a breed apart – and how non-cyclists see us. Perhaps not surprisingly, there’s a bit of a discrepancy.

Cyclists see themselves as independent minded and free spirited, environmentally aware, adventurous, and even a bit rebellious. But although non-cyclists agree that we're fitness conscious and independent minded, we’re also perceived to be less happy than they are, lazy and less hard working. Professor Tapp said, “Maybe the perception is that if you are a serious career professional in the UK, you don't cycle – you drive a 5 series instead.”

Lifelong lover of most things cycling-related, from Moulton Mini adventures in the 70s to London bike messengering in the 80s, commuting in the 90s, mountain biking in the noughties and road cycling throughout. Editor of Simpson Magazine (www.simpsonmagazine.cc).