Research from sports goods retailer Decathlon has confirmed what we have seen before in any number of surveys – that the perception that the UK’s roads are too dangerous to cycle on deters many from getting in the saddle for their commute.
The France-based retailer, which has been present in the UK for two decades and now trades from more than 40 stores nationwide, surveyed over 7,600 adults for its Decathlon Activity Index.
The research found that just 7 per cent of respondents cycle to work, with 26 per cent saying that they feel the roads are too dangerous to commute on by bicycle.
Some 21 per cent went further, agreeing that they are too scared to commute by bike, with an identical percentage claiming that the distance between their home and place of employment means cycling is not an option.
The retailer’s UK marketing director, Philippe Rebelo, acknowledged that while cities such as London and Manchester are spending money on safe infrastructure for cyclists, at a national level the percentage of people cycling to work remains low.
He said: “It is clear to see that not many of us actually choose to commute to our workplace with a bicycle. This is despite the government increasing the spend on cycling, with improvements for cycle to work schemes and even overhauls of roads in cities to accommodate cyclists.”
Besides the perception of danger, other barriers to cycling to work highlighted in the research included not owning a bike at all – something that 17 per cent of respondents admitted – while 7 per cent confessed that they do not actually like cycling.
Rebelo said: “There are many advantages of cycling to work that people seem to be missing out on - commuting to work via a bicycle is a great way to form a healthier lifestyle, it is cheaper and is better than other options.
“Even better, those without a bike can get one via the government’s bike to work scheme – and there are a number of bikes that can be rented in UK cities too. It is extremely inexpensive in the long run as you only need a bike, lights and a helmet and you’re off.”
In September, Edouard Philippe, the prime minister of Decathlon’s home country unveiled a plan to treble the numbers of everyday cyclists there, saying: “France is a great cycling nation … but in France, cycling is still a sport.”
It’s curious, then, that in a survey highlighting commuting, Rebelo’s closing comments emphasised the sporting side of cycling.
“We want to help the UK fall back in love with sports – we believe that sports should be accessible for all – cycling included,” he said.
“It is after all one of the sports that the UK is best known for competing in thanks to home grown talent like Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins and Laura Kenny.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.