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London has most bike commuters, study finds — or does it?

It depends how you count them

Which areas of England and Wales have the most cycle commuters? A home insurance company has added up the numbers and found that unsurprisingly it's Greater London. But when you take populations into account things get a bit more interesting.

It's no surprise that with its vast population Greater London also has the largest raw number of cycle commuters with 155,289 people riding to work, according to the figures from Privilege Home Insurance.

In second place comes much humbler Cambridgeshire with 29,689 cycle commuters; Greater Manchester is third with 25,161.

But when you take the populations of the areas into account, Cambridgeshire is a clear winner with almost five percent of its population commuting by bike.

Greater London comes in just under two percent and Greater Manchester can't even muster a paltry one percent.

In the tables below, you can see the 'raw' ranking by number of bike commuters, and the ranking by percentage of population.

Top ten UK cycle commuting districts

District Cycle commuters
Greater London 155,289
Cambridgeshire 29,689
Greater Manchester (Met County) 25,161
Oxfordshire 23,101
Hampshire 20,658
West Midlands (Met County) 19,029
Norfolk 17,332
Bristol 15,768
Essex 13,891
Suffolk 13,558

UK cycle commuting districts by percentage of population

District  Population  Cycle commuters  Proportion
Cambridgeshire 622,200 29,689 4.77%
Bristol 432,500 15,768 3.65%
Oxfordshire 654,800 23,101 3.53%
Norfolk 859,400 17,332 2.02%
Greater London 8,308,000 155,289 1.87%
Suffolk 730,100 13,558 1.86%
Hampshire 1,322,300 20,658 1.56%
Greater Manchester (Met County) 2,700,000 25,161 0.93%
Essex 1,729,200 13,891 0.80%
West Midlands (Met County) 2,783,475 19,029 0.68%

One possible weakness in this analysis is that it's hard to be certain exactly what Privilege means by 'Bristol' or 'Hampshire'. I've assumed the city/county population for the former and the county without the unitary metro authorities for the latter. I'm sure more stats-savvy readers will have something to say.

If you're wondering what an insurance company is doing finding this out, well, trying to sell home insurance to cyclists of course.

Dan Simson, head of Privilege Home Insurance said: "Cycling is a healthy, cost-effective and eco-friendly means of transport and it's encouraging to see how many people choose to cycle to work around the country." 

"It is, of course, very important for cyclists to stay safe whilst commuting and to secure their bicycles once they have arrived at the workplace.

"Having a good home insurance policy that provides cycle cover both at home and whilst out and about offers the best of both worlds to our two-wheeled commuters."

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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