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Findings come from biggest ever UK survey on attitudes to cycling

In the biggest survey ever conducted on attitudes to cycling in the UK, 75 per cent of people want to see greater investment in cycling. The independent study, commissioned by Sustrans, found that people wanted an average of £26 per person to be spent on cycling each year out of the £300 per person that is currently spent on transport.

This level of investment would be a significant increase on what is currently spent – £4 per person in England and £12 per person in Scotland – but even those who said that they never used a bike still backed an increase.

“People want governments to spend more, and say that they would cycle more if it were safer,” said Sustrans policy director, Jason Torrance.

The Bike Life Survey involved 11,016 adults across seven UK cities: Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester and Newcastle.

The majority of respondents backed some sort of increase in cycle spending – 71 per cent of those who said that they never used a bike were keen to see more being spent, rising to 87 per cent for those who rode frequently. The public’s desired level of government investment per person per year varied from £23 in Edinburgh to £34 in Birmingham.

The message from the public ‘couldn’t be clearer’ said Torrance.

“There’s a desire to cycle more, but a lack of safe places to ride bikes is off putting. People want governments to spend more, and say that they would cycle more if it were safer. Now governments must close this gap between current spending and public demand.

“Physical inactivity, congestion and declining air quality cost our economy billions. Governments must act to secure a greater share of current transport investment for cycling and walking. The spending review in November and the devolved elections next May are perfect opportunities to do just that. Government must ensure the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is ambitious and guarantees long-term funding for active travel.”

The survey also found that attitudes to cycling were broadly positive: 73 per cent of people said that things would be better if people in general rode more; 66 per cent of people said that more people riding bikes would make the area a better place to live and work; and 28 per cent of people said that while they didn’t currently ride a bike, they'd like to.

Unsurprisingly, safety was the biggest concern. Only 29 per cent of people said that safety for riding a bike where they lived was either good or very good; and only 58 per cent of people would feel safe cycling in the day – a proportion which dropped to 24 per cent for cycling at night. For those who don’t currently ride a bike but would like to, protected bike lanes and traffic-free cycle routes were what they would most like to see.

The report was based on the Copenhagen Bicycle Account, a key tool in making Denmark’s capital one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities. Compiled every two years, it assesses developments in cycling in the city, and includes responses to a telephone survey of more than 1,000 randomly selected local residents to gauge their views. The information is then used as part of the city’s planning process to identify areas where provision for cyclists can be improved.

Copenhagen has produced the reports since 1996 and they have allowed planners to gradually remove barriers to cycling. As a result of this, 45 per cent of journeys to work, school and university are now made by bike.

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