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Rising petrol costs boost cyclist numbers in Southampton, says survey

Two thirds of respondents also say they're riding more for health and enjoyment...

One in three cyclists in Southampton say that they have increased their levels of cycling during the past three years due to increased petrol prices, according to a major survey conducted by the University of Southampton on behalf of Southampton City Council.

Although it was not revealed how many of those cyclists had started riding a bike to reduce their use of a car, two thirds of respondents said that they are cycling more, with health and enjoyment also cited as reasons for doing so.

The survey, to which 1,300 cyclists responded after 3,700 packs were handed out to cyclists at 61 key locations throughout the city, is described as one of the largest of its type ever undertaken in the UK and will help Southampton City Council formulate its future cycling policy.

It also found that 41 per cent of cyclists said that they had been involved in “an accident” while riding in Southampton, although only 15 per cent of those incidents were reported to the police.

Dr Julia Branson of the University of Southampton’s GeoData Institute, which conducted the research, said: “The survey data not only shows us the routes people are using in Southampton and at what volume, but also people’s habits and opinions in relation to cycling. This will help the city council to develop its cycle strategy for the future.

“The most frequently used routes in the city are between the University of Southampton Highfield campus and Southampton General Hospital, and between the city centre and the Common, along the route of the Avenue.”

Other key findings included that 73 per cent of respondents were travelling to work and 16 per cent to the university itself, with half of those who completed the survey stating that they used their bikes between 8am and 9am.

Average journey time was most likely to be less than half an hour, cited by 80 per cent of participants, and a little more than half of journeys were no more than three miles. More than three quarters of respondents said they use their bike four or more days each week.

While 56 per cent of the cyclists questioned said that they only ever use a bike on their journey, 20 per cent said that they sometimes used a car.

The principal safety concern among the cyclists who took part in the research was “drivers not paying attention,” while one in three believe that off-road cycle lanes would improve conditions for cyclists, ahead of on-road ones and better maintained roads. Secure cycle storage, especially in the city centre, was also a feature called for by respondents.

Frank Baxter, Southampton City Council’s Travel and Transport Manager, Frank Baxter, commented: “Cycle use is increasing in the city and we want to encourage it. This research has provided us with a really useful insight into what cyclists want and need. We are now using it to plan new high quality cycle routes and other facilities.

“The survey has let us know where cyclists feel most vulnerable on the road and we will also be looking at how we can make these locations safer”.

A summary of the findings from the survey, together with maps based on the data collected, can be found on the Southampton City Council website.

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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