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Sustrans figures claim 40 million extra journeys on cycle network last year

Millions of extra bike journeys were made last year on the UK's National Cycle Network, thanks in part to to rising petrol prices and higher fares on public transport, according to a new study that claimed Britain had seen the biggest ever increase in cycling.

A Sustrans report, Cycling Revolution, published today claims that about 40 million more cycling trips were made last year than 2010 – an 18 per cent increase – taking the total to 256 million.

The figures, released to coincide with the beginning of Bike Week, represent an estimated 3.3 million people using the network - 300,0000 more than the year before.

Sustrans, who are campaigning for government investment into greatly improved cycle facilities in the UK, claim that the impact in financial terms of the cycling renaissance is £442 million in healthcare costs.

The figures, published in The Times, also claim that if all journeys made on the network in 2011 had been made by car, an additional 760,363 tonnes of carbon dioxide would have been emitted at a cost of £40 million to the economy.

Sustrans workers, who counted users on the marked routes, spoke to cyclists and asked them about their motivation to cycle.

Many cited high fuel prices and fare increases, along with being able to beat traffic jams, but a lot of women cyclists said they wanted to get fitter.

The national network was launched 17 years ago and now extends to 13,600 miles of signed routes with a third on traffic-free paths and the rest following quieter lanes or traffic-calmed roads.

Chief executive Malcolm Shepherd said: "Cycling and walking are the answers to our rising petrol prices and expanding waistlines, but we need safe routes to feel comfortable travelling by bike and foot.

"People across the country are crying out for routes where they can get off roads and make safe, healthy, cheap and green journeys. It's time the Government had the foresight to properly fund cycling and walking."

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.