UK ranked Europe's 10th Most Cycle Friendly Nation

Netherlands and Denmark tie for top spot in European Cyclist's Federation's Cycling Barometer

by Tony Farrelly   June 5, 2013  

The UK has been named the tenth most cycle friendly nation in Europe - just ahead of France - in a benchmarking exercise by the European Cyclist Federation. No points for guessing the winners: The Netherlands and Denmark tied for first place in what the ECF call their Cycling Barometer.

There were surprises though, Spain may be a powerhouse when it comes to producing top class pro cyclists but it languishes near the back of the pack of the er, Barometer with Portugal for company and only Bulgaria, Romania; and Malta behind it.

Countries were judged on five different criteria: Modal share; Safety; Cycling Tourism; Bicycle sales per 1000 inhabitants; and Advocates - membership of cycling organisations as a percentage of the overall population - you can see how each country scored in these categories below.

Points were then awarded based on a nation's ranking in each category and those points totalled up to give the overall scores. Denmark and the Netherlands both scored 125, while the UK back in 10th got 80 points - bike sales pushed the UK overall score up. it came fifth in terms of bicycle sales per 1000 inhabitants - just behind Finland and remarkably close to the Netherlands - Denmark was second, and the country with the biggest bike buying habit in Europe?…Slovenia (but you knew that).

The ECF launched the Cycling Barometer ahead of next week's Velo-City 2013 conference in Vienna which brings together cycling organisations and policy makers, including EU Transport Commissioner Sim Kallas. One of its aims (apart from making the Dutch and Scandinavians feel smug) is to demonstrate the need for verifiable European wide measures of the levels of cycling in EU member states. The ECF's measures are based on five areas it sees as important and it used European wide data gathered on member states to collate it's figures rather than national data from each country - in a bid to factor out the different approaches taken to gathering such data.

ECF Cycling Barometer Project Manager Chloe Mispelon said: "We are confident in our results which show a strong correlation with other data and knowledge about cycling but we call on the EU Horizon 2020 research program to establish data that is updated and maintained through to 2020. The barometer shows that we really need reliable statistics on cycling in the EU to enable governments and advocates to assess progress on cycling and to allow collaborative working between countries to improve cycling for European citizens.”

One result of the methodology is that if there is no data available for a country in a specific field then it will be at the bottom of the rankings for that area and its place in the overall rankings will suffer too. This goes some way to explaining Malta's pitiful overall score of 15 some way behind Cyprus despite its rather alarming score for Safety - no data was available for either Malta or Bulgaria in this category.

Possibly the biggest issue with the data is that the different categories aren't weighted, so even though the UK's modal share is poor and it's mid-table in terms of safety, the bike sales and advocacy push the overall rank up. Many would argue that the true barometer of whether a nation has embraced the bike isn't people buying them, or talking about them, but being able to ride them in safety, and doing so in large numbers.

Overall rank

Modal share

No surprise that the Netherlands and Denmark are at the business end, but Hungary have sneaked into second place with a modal share of approaching 20% - who knew? The UK is languishing seventh from bottom. The ECF's calculation of each country's modal share is based on a European-wide survey rather than national government statistics.

Safety

You do NOT want to be spending too much time cycling around Cyprus, it would appear from these stats. It has over three times the casualty rate of any other country included. We're mid-table. Figures for this were calculated by muliplying modal share by the population of the country and then dividing the number of cyclists killed by the population of cyclists to get what the ECF term a "relative safety index".

Cycling Tourism

As quite a densely populated country with a small modal share, it's not hard to see whay we'd be at the bottom end of this one; although leisure cycling and transport cycling aren't intrinsically linked (the Finns top the table here but not in modal share) more regular cyclists seems to correlate fairly well with more leisure journeys too.

Bicycle Market

We're fifth here. The UK has always has a fairly strong bike market, although it's tended to be dominated by lower-end products and it's clear from the other graphs that lots of bike sales doesn't automatically mean lots of bike journeys.

Advocacy

The UK is fifth again but it's clear that while the top four have managed to turn their high advocacy levels into high bike usage, that's not really been the case over here.

11 user comments

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Agree, just buying bikes makes no difference. Bit like people buying cookery books and still eat microwave meals. Our modal share is simply rubbish.

jaunty angle: bikes and communications
http://ragtag.wordpress.com

ragtag's picture

posted by ragtag [171 posts]
5th June 2013 - 9:25

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ragtag wrote:
Agree, just buying bikes makes no difference. Bit like people buying cookery books and still eat microwave meals. Our modal share is simply rubbish.

The Wiggo affect is only worth something if all those lovely racing bikes get out on the roads regularly. The same is true for women buying bikes, if they aren't used...

I would give up my jersey and my Cannondale without a second thought if it meant we could improve the range and depth of cyclists in this country. It needs to be normalised ... I've just got no idea how to do that.

posted by Not KOM [79 posts]
5th June 2013 - 9:52

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I agree with what I anticipate the general road.cc sentiment to be (!), namely that modal share should be upweighted in working out the overall ranking, and the UK should thusly be lower.

Other points of interest - I had no idea that Hungary was such a hotbed of cycling (name me a Hungarian pro, without looking!). And I won't be planning a winter training camp in Cyprus anytime soon.

I'd love to see a similar survey for European urban areas - say, top 100. Wondering where Manchester (home of British Cycling, let's not forget) would come, according to these metrics...

Ghedebrav's picture

posted by Ghedebrav [1101 posts]
5th June 2013 - 12:32

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I've been commuting by bicycle for the last 5 years in London and have definitely seen an increase in commuters over that time.

Worth mentioning the wiggo effect has also got myself and a few mates buying second bikes that we regularly take out on weekend jaunts. I've got no shame in admitting that.

posted by Scoob_84 [232 posts]
5th June 2013 - 13:25

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"we could improve the range and depth of cyclists in this country. It needs to be normalised ... I've just got no idea how to do that."

It increasingly seems to me that it has to be creating more proper* segregated cycle paths alongside main roads. Most people don't like the idea of mixing it with motor traffic (regardless of how safe cycling actually is). Build it and they will ride I reckon.

*proper as in not the usual crap we get in the UK - pavements with a bit of paint that give way to every side road, etc. And they would be suitable to ride your Cannondale on as well.

posted by Bristolbybike [12 posts]
5th June 2013 - 14:30

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@bristolbybike, the "build it and they will come" has not really worked in trials so far as i understand it. I saw a #streettalk in hackney yesterday where Trevor Parsons and the local (hackney) council have been working on an alternative where they block rat runs and make cycle routes through areas that they are actively trying to regenerate off the high streets. I've used these roads myself and some are quite good. People are certainly using goldsmiths row more for walking and cycling more than even three years ago when it was a one way for cars. (js)

posted by London Green Cycles [2 posts]
5th June 2013 - 15:31

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@Londongreencycles - isn't it more about having the appropriate solution for the environment? Blocking off rat runs works well on quiet residential streets, separate cycle paths work well on bigger roads. The main thing is to create an environment that's welcoming, where cycling with your kids or wobbling along slowly isn't a stressful experience, but still allows you to get to your destination easily.

Hackney's cycling numbers are good by UK standards but can't really hold a candle to the Netherlands or Denmark.

posted by Mr Agreeable [151 posts]
5th June 2013 - 21:12

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For me nothing sums up the British dislocation from exercise than this:

Our local railway station services just half a mile around it as the next stations are a mile each side. The bike cage holds 42 bikes but I've yet to see more than 12 bikes in it - even on a hot day like to day. The station car park holds 80 cars and is full.

Aside from closing the car park and giving discounted train tickets to those that ride to the station I cannot see how even 10 Wiggos can improve the situation.

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1093 posts]
6th June 2013 - 16:51

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Just returned from Berlin, where I was knocked out by the fantastic number of cycle lanes on roads, as well as, sometimes 2, clearly marked lanes on pavements. The entire city, including the amazing S & U Bahn allow bikes, and I never saw one incident where a driver or pedestrian had anything less than respect for cyclists, and vice versa. And Germany as a whole was only number 5!

It's sad to say that we are decades behind, in both facilities and attitudes. We are going to need a Wiggo, Cavendish or Froome every year in the TDF, for the forseeable future, to have even the remotest chance of things improving.

At least Sustrans has the right idea, more organisations like them working with cycling bodies and the Government, would be a start.

icam1968's picture

posted by icam1968 [10 posts]
6th June 2013 - 21:49

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I can't see Norway or Switzerland so is this just an EU survey not a full European survey. I expect including all European countries might push the UK a little further down the rankings.

posted by Pub bike [58 posts]
13th June 2013 - 16:45

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It certainly is impressive how many bikes there are in the mornings now at Guildford station. Seeing as we're talking a proper "commuter town", on two sides of a hill and with exactly 4 bike lanes (I've counted), the fact that there's a three year waiting list for the secure bike cage, and the normal racks are full is really great to see. I would guess that a good hundred people ride to the station on a weekday morning, and that's not including folding bike wallahs.

posted by argotittilius [23 posts]
26th April 2014 - 18:04

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