Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

"The UK is travelling in the wrong direction": Cycling miles travelled down and car journeys up according to latest government stats

Responding to the Road Traffic Estimates in Great Britain report released by the Department for Transport today, the IPPR says the government needs a new transport strategy that "reflects the public’s desire to travel differently"...

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has slammed the UK Government after the completed Road Traffic Estimates data published today by the Department for Transport show a 7.3% decline in cycling miles travelled and a 2.2% rise in car journeys between 2022 and 2023. It's estimated that Brits travelled 330.8 billion miles by car in 2023, as opposed to just 3.6 billion miles by bike. 

On the same day that Rishi Sunak announced a general election, this will be more unwelcome news among realistic members of the Conservative party, as recent statistics estimate that over 80% of the UK public are fairly or very concerned about the environment. 

The IPPR, an independent charity “working towards a fairer, greener, and more prosperous society", says that over a third of people "want the opportunity to walk, wheel or cycle more than they currently do", adding that it thinks the government "needs a new transport strategy that reflects both the public’s desire to travel differently, and the pressing environmental and social imperatives to reduce car miles travelled." 

Dr Maya Singer Hobbs, a senior research fellow at the IPPR, commented: “The increase in car journeys and decrease in bus and bicycle journeys shows the UK is travelling in the wrong direction. The UK is sleepwalking towards a traffic-heavy future, with all the economic, social and environmental challenges that brings. 

“More cars on the road means more pollution, worse air quality and rising emissions. But people will continue to be reliant on their cars unless the government acts to fix the dire state of public transport around the country. Until people have safe, affordable and reliable options, progress will continue to be stuck in reverse gear.” 

The IPPR also commented a month ago on the government's “shocking lack of progress” on active travel, after data from Sport England's Active Lives Survey highlighted a stark contrast in levels of physical activity between affluent and less affluent areas. It cited more figures from the National Travel Survey that shown the average distance cycled per person hadn't changed since 2019. 

Back in September 2023, Cycling UK also expressed dismay at findings that shown cycling traffic had dropped by 5% from the previous year, blaming the UK Government's "flawed" decision to slash the active travel budget and roll back support for low traffic neighbourhoods. 

Floating bus stop on Cycleway 9 in King Street, Hammersmith (copyright Simon MacMichael)

The latest disappointing active travel and cycling stats come off the back of a fortnight in which cycling has had plenty of negative coverage in the wider media, arguably starting with the tragic case of a pensioner who died in Regent's Park following a collision with a cyclist. A coroner's inquest was told no charges would be brought against Brian Fitzgerald, who collided with Hilda Griffiths in June 2022.  

Just over a week after that story broke, the government agreed to introduce tougher laws for “dangerous cyclists” who kill or injure, with the proposed amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill set to be debated in the House of Lords. That arguably led to another flurry of anti-cycling stories and low-rent radio rants, with the Telegraph coming up trumps when it comes to cycling falsehoods in its feature originally carrying the title '52mph in a 20mph zone: How cyclists are turning UK roads into death traps'.

> Chris Boardman comments on Telegraph '52mph in a 20mph zone' article as it emerges co-author is former BBC fact-checker

The online title has since been shortened with the physically impossible '52mph in a 20mph zone' part omitted, the Telegraph claiming in its correction note that the Strava data it used to support the claim "cannot be checked or independently verified". 

It could be said that the government's stance on active travel has changed somewhat since the days of Boris Johnson's administration, the former PM calling for a “new golden age for cycling” off the back of his administration's 'Gear Shift: A bold vision for cycling and walking' document that was published in 2020.

There is little to no evidence the ambitions included in that document are being implemented, with promises to increase cycling and walking replaced by references to the "war on the motorist", rhetoric touted by the current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and transport secretary Mark Harper in recent months. 

After Sunak announced a 4th July general election this evening, active travel and cycling advocates will hope a new government could begin to reverse the decline in cycling and walking, while less pro-motorist and anti-cycling rhetoric coming from the top will mean reduced hostility coming from the press. Not everyone is so enthused, though... 

> Concern as Labour shadow transport secretary comments on plans for cycling, 20mph speed limits and active travel schemes

Arriving at road.cc in 2017 via 220 Triathlon Magazine, Jack dipped his toe in most jobs on the site and over at eBikeTips before being named the new editor of road.cc in 2020, much to his surprise. His cycling life began during his students days, when he cobbled together a few hundred quid off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story) and bought his first road bike - a Trek 1.1 that was quickly relegated to winter steed, before it was sadly pinched a few years later. Creatively replacing it with a Trek 1.2, Jack mostly rides this bike around local cycle paths nowadays, but when he wants to get the racer out and be competitive his preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking - the latter being another long story.  

Add new comment

29 comments

Avatar
Shades | 4 weeks ago
3 likes

As I needed to be back in town promptly after work today, I elected to get the train to work and didn't cycle to the station as I didn't want the hassle of the bike later.  Took a hire e bike; needed to keep one pushy motorist in their place but left them in my wake once they joined a queue (yep, roads aren't safe enough).  All up cost £2.43 for the bike (could walked and saved money but it would have added time) and £12.00 return for the train (saved a £1.00 with a railcard).  If I'd been budget concious then I'd probably drive, get home early and walk into town for half to 2/3 the price.  As it was, I got some fresh air, bit of light exercise, read on the train (no hassle with overcrowding or late running) and didn't contribute towards traffic/pollution.  The majority of people need a car for some reason so, unless you can afford not to use it occasionally, that's what they'll use.  Most, having never used a bike much growing up, will look at cycling as an alien concept; I'm still gaining cycling knowledge and experience after 50 years of it.  Either make active travel cheaper (never seen public transport costs go down), make motoring more expensive (brave government that goes there) or boot the cars out of town (LTNs and cycle lanes are creating a culture war).  Probably a combination but it'll take a long time.

Avatar
hawkinspeter | 4 weeks ago
9 likes

Can we please get rid of the Death Cult Tories? It hasn't been fun and I don't want them again.

Avatar
brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 4 weeks ago
6 likes

Worrying thing is how far right Labour has drifted.  Still WAAAY left of the Tories, but arguably right of centre.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to brooksby | 4 weeks ago
3 likes

brooksby wrote:

Worrying thing is how far right Labour has drifted.  Still WAAAY left of the Tories, but arguably right of centre.

Quite. I think letting Natalie Elphicke join was a big mistake as it sends the message that Keith values numbers over ethics. I hope that if he does get the top job that'll he'll pivot into drifting leftwards a bit, but I'm not confident that'll happen.

Avatar
The_Ewan replied to hawkinspeter | 4 weeks ago
5 likes

> sends the message that Keith values numbers over ethics

She's not standing again, so even if the only political idea they ever agreed on was wanting to make Rishi Sunak's life worse, that was enough.

And if her move contributed at all to Rishi thinking that things were only going to carry on getting worse for him and he should go now, then her move and Labour letting her in might have just saved us six months odd of Tory government.

And she's now going to be out of a job in six weeks anyway. Overall that's definitely a win.

Avatar
brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 4 weeks ago
1 like

hawkinspeter wrote:

brooksby wrote:

Worrying thing is how far right Labour has drifted.  Still WAAAY left of the Tories, but arguably right of centre.

Quite. I think letting Natalie Elphicke join was a big mistake as it sends the message that Keith values numbers over ethics. I hope that if he does get the top job that'll he'll pivot into drifting leftwards a bit, but I'm not confident that'll happen.

TBH I think he's purged anyone who is - you know - "left wing".

Avatar
Hirsute | 4 weeks ago
5 likes

" It's the only outcome for a country that set a strategy to destroy public transport, forcing people outside of London into car dependency and without the environment  to walk & cycle safely.  "

//pbs.twimg.com/media/GOPnp54WIAANGk2?format=jpg&name=medium)

Avatar
HoarseMann replied to Hirsute | 4 weeks ago
3 likes

ooh, you caught the headline before it got tamed...!

Avatar
Rome73 | 4 weeks ago
9 likes

But how can that be? How can car miles have increased when there is a 'war on the motorist'? 

Avatar
mctrials23 replied to Rome73 | 4 weeks ago
5 likes

Because the motorist is valiantly fighting back against bike bike and slowly but surely clawing back some small amount of power from the all powerful cycling lobby. 

Avatar
chrisonabike | 4 weeks ago
2 likes

In the context of "likely changes" the trends shown in the 2015 "50 years of the national travel survey" sheet might be interesting.

Avatar
marmotte27 replied to chrisonabike | 4 weeks ago
1 like

One could add that the number of destinations reached every day in 1965 and in 2014 has not increased, it always was and is 3.1.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to marmotte27 | 4 weeks ago
0 likes

Quite. I way just thinking of the main source of "issues" simply being the increase in driving (people, distance) and modal shift *to* driving.

And noting that much of that shift has come from less use of public transport (buses basically). The effect amounting to people now driving rather than making bus trips. Plus less cycling also.

The hopeful part being that if people want *private* transport (for a lot of short-distance journeys) that's where cycling can help!

Avatar
Pub bike | 4 weeks ago
12 likes

My own experience is that for many years from the mid-2000s to around 2020 or so the roads seemed to get a little bit safer but since then they seem to have become more dangerous.   I thought things got yet more dangerous after the changes to the highway code which should have had the opposite effect.   The "Plan for Drivers" is just making things even worse.   Stating the blindingly obvious cyclists whether new or experienced will be less inclined to ride on the roads if there is perceived or real danger and more people will cycle less as that danger increases.   These cycling miles figures do not surprise me, but they do sadden me.

Avatar
HarrogateSpa replied to Pub bike | 4 weeks ago
1 like

I agree people won't get around by bike if it doesn't feel safe.

I doubt it's possible accurately to assess changes in safety due to specific govt actions like the risible Plan for Drivers, but if that's the drift of govt policy over a long period it certainly won't help.

Avatar
dubwise replied to Pub bike | 4 weeks ago
5 likes

Since the lockdown ended, the roads have become significantly more dangerous.  Drivers now don't bother with such things as junctions, roundabouts, etc. nevermind the highway code.

It is, as has been said on here before, as if they want to be at their destination before they have set off.

Avatar
fincon1 | 4 weeks ago
20 likes

As if I needed another reason to not vote Conservative this time around. I already cancelled my Telegraph subscription earlier in the year due to their almost constant anti-cycling articles. Britain is the most obese nation an Europe, and yet people choose to villify one of the obvious solutions. It would be funny if it weren't so tragic.

Avatar
kingleo replied to fincon1 | 4 weeks ago
3 likes

I stopped reading the Telegraph for the same reason, the tories must have a death wish - about 6.5 million people cycle at some time in the UK, and that's a whole lot of votes, and they are alienating us. A few months ago they had a three-page article in the sports section about Dame Laura Kenney when she retired - now they are calling her a lycra lout.

Avatar
stonojnr replied to kingleo | 4 weeks ago
5 likes

its worth keeping an eye on,most of their articles appear on MSN a day or so later, just to see what theyre agitating about next.

and theyre very much of the same double mindedness as the British public in so far as the exact same people who complain about cyclists on the roads, who close pass you, swear at you, treat you like trash. Will absolutely spend the summer cheering the Brit cyclists on in the Olympics and celebrating the reflected glory.

Avatar
webbierwrex replied to fincon1 | 4 weeks ago
8 likes

I wish some politician had the back bone to say that the survival of the NHS may depend on getting more people out of cars and walking or cycling. Inactivity is placing an ever larger burden that at some point the state won't be able to support. Record obesity, record rises in type 2 diabetes... inactivity will kill the NHS.

Avatar
mctrials23 replied to webbierwrex | 4 weeks ago
2 likes

Yep, something people don't want to hear. The reason the NHS is going to collapse isn't lack of funding, its people. Its the fact that the average person pays fuck all tax and thinks that it covers all their expensive medical bills and everything else in the country when they are a burden on the NHS from an ever younger age. We are bloody good at keeping people alive these days, it just costs a huge amount of money to do it. 

The only way to save the NHS in its current guise is to make the nation healthier. People need to sort out their diets, their weight and their complete lack of exercise. 

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to mctrials23 | 4 weeks ago
0 likes

mctrials23 wrote:

Yep, something people don't want to hear. The reason the NHS is going to collapse isn't lack of funding, its people.

I was thinking "summarising the challenges faced by the nation's biggest employer / tax cost - in a single post?  That's bold".  But you've got it down to a word!

I'm more cautious and tend to "I think you'll find it's a little more complicated..."

So I'm going for "it's sick people".

Avatar
Mr Hoopdriver replied to mctrials23 | 4 weeks ago
1 like

mctrials23 wrote:

Its the fact that the average person pays fuck all tax and thinks that it covers all their expensive medical bills and everything else in the country when they are a burden on the NHS from an ever younger age.

Apparently we're paying more tax now than ever.  https://ifs.org.uk/articles/how-tax-burden-high-when-most-us-are-taxed-so-low which is worrying because services are so bad and where is the money going ?  I don't think things are better than in the past, it may be rose tinted spectacles but despite the massive increase in the welfare budget over the last few decades, we felt much better off in the past.

For the last few years, I have considered the NHS to be the third party in UK politics.  You can guarantee that there will be a lot of NHS talking heads appearing in the media trying to influence the outcome of the election and getting their agenda onto the front pages.  The NHS has become a political party (that we don't vote for) instead of it focussing on what it was set up for.

 

Wait until we get the bill for the damage we've done to the planet and our descendants  2

Avatar
mattw replied to webbierwrex | 4 weeks ago
1 like

Much truth in that.

Change in the NHS will be driven by finance as a gate keeper before prevention is applied. Of course.

On diabetes it lines up, and we have a lot of good things being done - some indeed being world-leading. An example of the above is that we are currently rolling out hybrid closed loop insulin pumps to moer or less anyone with Type I D who wants or needs one to improve and simplify management of the condition. 

These have already been increasing for years for children with diabetes, which is important as they have longer to live with D and getting good habits in before the rebellious phase is strategic.

We are seeing better results in all the monitoring metrics for D. eg up to ~2020 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10473941/

The background is that diabetes + complications is iirc approx 10% of NHS budget, and 90% of that is managing complications and consequences.

There are various Type II initiatives alongside, which achieve much with basic education and advice.

Avatar
Hivizalways replied to fincon1 | 4 weeks ago
0 likes

You should get your facts straight. Britain is not the most obese nation in Europe.

Avatar
wtjs replied to Hivizalways | 4 weeks ago
4 likes

Britain is not the most obese nation in Europe

Hardly worth quibbling- there's no dispute that it's one of the most obese nations in Europe.

Avatar
cyclisto replied to Hivizalways | 4 weeks ago
3 likes

I didn't know either but from a quick search it seems to be the most obese in Western Europe

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_obesity_rate

(Tonga is almost 80%, Wow!)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/articles/britain_diet

If someone though wants to lose weight (and I believe it is good for many reasons, regarding health, improved confidence, ease to do things in life etc) it is more of how much you eat and less than how much you excercise.

Avatar
Hirsute replied to cyclisto | 4 weeks ago
2 likes

And also what you eat. Eating a load of processed foods is much worse than the equivalent calories of cooked from scratch meals.

Avatar
marmotte27 replied to Hivizalways | 4 weeks ago
1 like

Oh, you totally annihilated the argument. Not.

Latest Comments