Sport England figures show big growth in number of regular cyclists but regional picture is mixed

British Cycling says it's on course to deliver Olympic legacy targets for growth in cycling

by Simon_MacMichael   June 25, 2012  

Manchester Sky Ride 2011 picture credit Eddie Allen

Figures released by  Sport England as part of its latest Active People Survey show that the equivalent of 81,000 more people in England cycled regularly in the 12 months to April 2012, compared to the previous survey released six months ago. Sport Englands figures come hot on the heels of a Sustrans survey released last week which showed an unprecdented jump in the levels of cycling in the UK.

The jump in the number of people cycling regularly in the six months to April was even bigger - 161,000, but that is partly accounted for by poor figures for the previous six months and we would guess a relatively dry, mild winter.

According to British Cycling, Sky Ride and other mass participation events with which the organisation is involved are behind the growth in number of cyclists - Sport England's figures show that London and the South East and Yorkshire were the areas that drove growth - so it would be interesting to see how Sky rides and other mass participation map against those areas. The South West also showed a slight rise in participation over the last 12 months, but both the North East and North West showed falls in the levels of regular cycling over the last 12 months - although both showed slight increases over the last six months.

The growth in regular cycling is ahead of the target that Sport England had set British Cycling of getting 150,000 more people cycling regularly between 2009 and 2013.

Cycle sport's governing body claims that female-friendly initiatives such as Breeze which is aimed specifically at enouraging more women to ride bikes had led to an increase in the number of women cycling regularly – 54,000 more did so in the year to April 2012 compared to the year to October 2011, and that growth in participation had also been recorded among people with a disability.

Ian Drake, Chief Executive of British Cycling, commented: “We’re on course to achieve our target of delivering a sustainable participation legacy before the Games thanks to our partnerships with Sport England, Sky and local authorities, without whom we would not be seeing these results today. These successes are also a credit to the fantastic work of our volunteers – at regional, club and event level – thank you all.”

In a statement accompanying the announcement of the figures, British Cycling, which now has almost 50,000 members, with 1,000 people joining lat month, added that 20,000 people now race regularly across all disciplines, with nearly 3,500 competitive events annually, while younger cyclists continue to have a route into the sport through Go-Ride clibs, of which 100 have signed up for the Go-Ride Games this year, described as “a national summer festival of cycling for young people.”

The need for British Cycling to target young people is borne out by the worrying statistic that cycle participation has dropped amongst 16-19 year olds compared with a 2007-2008 baseline, there was also a statistically significant drop in cycling participation levels amongst ethnic minorities.

Sport England defines regular cycling as a minimum of four times per month for at least 30 minutes per ride.

7 user comments

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"than six months ago" seems a bit disingenuous. More people riding in June than December/January - who'd have thought it?

posted by steff [81 posts]
25th June 2012 - 12:07

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It's the wording of the press release that was misleading more than the survey itself, which covers the year to April 2012 (and is performed every six months, so the previous one was for the year to October 2011), have changed article to reflect that.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [9127 posts]
25th June 2012 - 12:29


I am pleased that more people are cycling and appreciative of the work that the various bodies mentioned above put into developing active participation in cycling; but did I miss the Olympic games or has the word legacy been redefined?


posted by lushmiester [156 posts]
25th June 2012 - 12:51

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Interesting that the North West has dropped. I can only speak for my experience, but there certainly seem to be more cyclists on Manchester's streets than there were a year ago (though still far, far fewer than we'd like). I'm not quibbling with the figures, mind, they just surprised me.

However, I wouldn't be suprised if there was a link, statistically speaking, between the drop in participation by young people and the drop in ethnic minorities, with the latter being a consequence of the former (given that ethnic minorities make up larger percentages of younger age-bands).

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posted by Ghedebrav [1126 posts]
25th June 2012 - 14:52

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I wonder how big the survey was and who conducted it.

posted by paulfg42 [388 posts]
25th June 2012 - 19:09

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No mention of the impact of actual road and track cycling either.
Doing well at a sport usually increases participation, and as our elite cycling (Wiggins, Cavendish et al) over the last few years, and the success of Team GB over the last decade and more.
At no point is there any statistical analysis of the figures to include for the ongoing impact of British Cycling successes.

posted by cjk99 [62 posts]
25th June 2012 - 22:17


The number crunching ability by some organisations is enough to make the eyes water, for me it is satisfying to see numbers from British Cycling and CTC memberships rapidly rising, proof indeed of more mass participation. Lots of cyclists tag on to these events without a commitment to join, like the guys who tag on to local club runs and never pay any subs. For whatever reason, cycling is on the increase and it's good to see.


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posted by antonio [1084 posts]
26th June 2012 - 9:10