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UK has almost nine million cyclists, claims report

A fifth ride at least once a week & transport cycling makes up 40% of total

Almost nine million people in the UK ride a bike regularly, a new survey claims, making cycling the number three participation sport in the UK after swimming and running.

The claim comes from sports research firm Sports Marketing Surveys Inc (SMS Inc) which says that 16.9% of adults in the UK are cyclists, with the average participant cycling 48.9 times in the past year. One fifth of the 8,741,000 UK cyclists ride at least once per week.

That claim roughly matches figures published last year by Sport England which showed that 2,003,000 people had ridden a bike in the period October 2012 to October 2013, up by 137,000 from the period April 2012 to April 2013.

However, Sport England’s Active People survey specifically excluded cycling for transport, while SMS counts people commuting and simply getting from A to B. Comparisons are further muddied by SMS looking at the UK (64 million people), while Sport England just surveys a sample of England's 53 million. 

SMS Inc says road cycling is the most popular type of riding, with 80 percent of riders on the tarmac. However, some might say they've confused cycling and cycle sport as they mention that the most common reason for cycling is for recreational purposes, while over 40% cycle for commuting and transportation.

Twenty-two percent of under-18s ride, according to SMS whose managing director John Bushell said: “Cycling is the growth sport in the UK and our report shows no signs of that slowing down. The insight into youth participation, along with positive involvement from the older age groups, is testament to the healthy state of the sport.

“The boom has been well documented.”

Cycle sport my well be on the up, as the seemingly unstoppable rise in sportive participation suggests, but the proportion of journeys undertaken by bike in the UK remains stuck at two percent after declining steeply since the 1950s.

John 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 Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for 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 before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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