So just how big is Britain's cycling boom? 2011 Census will seek to find out
Questionniare designers hope to pinpoint changes in numbers taking to two wheels for commute
Next year’s UK-wide Census will seek to establish how patterns of bicycle usage have changed over the past decade, as well as establishing what current habits are relating to usage of bikes.
The government surveys of the UK population – separate Censuses are carried out by the Office for National Statistics for England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – takes place every ten years.
The last Census for England & Wales in 2001 established that more than 650,000 people aged between 16 and 74 used bikes as their main means of travelling to work.
The information compiled, together with that compiled in other research based on smaller samples such as the National Travel Survey, will also enable transport planners to assess the need for the provision of facilities such as cycle paths over the coming decade.
According to Peter Stokes, 2011 Census Statistical Design Manager, “We ask the question on how people travel to work, as well as one on workplace address, to help local authorities assess likely traffic flows to and around their area during rush hour.
“The information can also be used to judge the effectiveness of certain policies. For example, do more people cycle if a cycle path is available between home and work than if not? Census statistics also help local authorities identify areas where few people use public transport or cycle, and assess whether providing alternatives to people driving could be effective.”
The 2001 Census discovered that 476,010 men in England & Wales used their bikes to travel to work, compared to 174,967 women.
It is expected that next year’s Census will show an increase in those numbers, given initiatives such as the Cycle To Work scheme, introduced in 1998, as well as the impact of the recession.
Other factors anticipated by the designers of the Census to have boosted the number of people taking to two wheels to travel to work include a general increase in interest in cycling due to Great Britain’s Olympic success, the Skyride programme, London’s Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme, and higher fuel and public transport costs.
While the Census won’t break out the influence of each of those factors, it will provide a snapshot of just how much the number of people who use their bikes for their daily commute has changed over the past ten years, although given the sheer scale of the exercise, the results are likely to take a year or two to be made public.
The Censuses will be carried out on 27 March 2011, with forms delivered to every household in the constituent countries in the UK, and responses can also be provided online. Further information is available from the Census website.