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Cycling set to leapfrog public transport as choice for commute, survey finds

Walking also set to increase – but it’s not all good news, more people plan to drive to work post lockdown

A survey released on today’s Cycle to Work Day has found that in post-coronavirus Britain, cycling is set to overtake public transport as a preferred choice of commuting, with the percentage of people who say they plan to get to their jobs by bike doubling.

The survey, from law firm Irwin Mitchell, has also underlined what any number of previous polls over the years have established – there is big demand for cycling as a way of getting to work, but what puts people off  getting on their bikes is the perception that it is too dangerous to ride on the road.

Commissioned from YouGov and carried out online on 10 and 11 June, the survey of 2,089 adults aged 18-plus found that 13 per cent of people said they planned to cycle to work post-lockdown, compared to 6 per cent who did so previously.

That put cycling in third place overall, behind driving their own car, at 58 per cent, and walking, the preferred way of getting to work for 26 per cent of the population.

Those figures represent big increases from the pre-lockdown proportions, when 39 per cent went to work by car and 17 per cent walked. Previously, 11 per cent travelled by bus and 8 per cent took a train, with cycling trailing in fifth place.

Peter Lawrence, a specialist serious injury lawyer with the firm, which  is affiliated to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling and Walking, said: “During such challenging times it’s been uplifting to see new cyclists on the road and it’s certainly given me a boost seeing so many people cycling to maintain a healthy mind and body.

“With lockdown restrictions continuing to be eased, we’re seeing a return to busy roads and traffic that makes cycling a very different proposition to back in March, when social distancing was first introduced.

“We don’t want to put anyone off cycling and are delighted that the Government has committed to making it safer, but its proposed changes won’t happen overnight. In the meantime, cyclists and vehicle drivers need to continue to champion the collective and supportive ethos we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic.

“With businesses reopening and employees commuting by bike and car we need people to drive and ride sensibly, at the right speed. Sadly, we see all too often the life-changing impact road injuries have on innocent individuals and their families.”

Other findings from the survey include:

A total of 12 per cent of British households took up cycling during lockdown.

31  per cent of 18-24-year-olds have taken up cycling, as have 30 per cent of students surveyed.

Of those questioned just over one in four – 26 per cent – said they are likely to continue cycling post Covid-19.

Too much traffic on the roads – 33 per cent – followed by a lack of designated and segregated cycle lanes – 21 per cent – were the biggest factors preventing people from cycling.

A personal lack of cycling experience put off 12 per cent, while 8 per cent said a lack of facilities in the workplace such as showers and changing rooms were also a barrier to cycling.

Lawrence added: “That just over a quarter of respondents say they are likely to continue cycling post Covid-19 is quite telling about the safety of our roads, particularly before the pandemic.

“The government says there’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to change habits. Given the survey’s findings and ministers’ pledge to increase cycling and walking rates we now hope that the number of people who feel safe to cycle increases, leading to permanent change.”

Unsurprisingly, as lockdown continues to ease in the four nations of the UK, albeit at different paces, there has been a flurry of surveys regarding commuting by bike.

On Tuesday, a survey commissioned by Network Rail to mark its new partnership with Cycling UK found that one in five people plan to cycle at least part of their route to work.

> One in five Brits say they would consider commuting by bike, finds survey

As we reported on Monday, however, Sports Marketing Surveys – the company that compiles sales data for industry body the Bicycle Association – has suggested that the profile of people commuting by bike could undergo a significant change post-pandemic.

> Sales data suggest “consumers cottoned on to the cycling revolution before the government did”

It said: “For one thing pre-Covid cycling commuters tend to be younger people living in urban areas or slightly older white-collar workers incorporating cycling as part of a commute in tandem with public transport,” SMS explained.

“However, as the lock down in the UK eases, it is precisely these groups who are finding that office presence, and therefore commuting, is not currently required.

“Metropolitan office employers have largely been the group best able to accommodate working from home,” it said, citing research from The Centre for Cities, “with footfall weakest in major metropolitan areas with a substantial office footprint, including London, Manchester and Liverpool.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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lostshrimp | 3 years ago

The chaos could all be 3 weeks away. Not sure what percentage of kids usually go to school by public transport but if even a small group of these now start going by car (which I can imagine lots of parents will do).

ktache replied to lostshrimp | 3 years ago

Yes, there has been a steady increase from the glories of the roads at the start of the lockdown to a full school summer holiday level, but maybe with a bit more.

Scotland's go back earlier than England's, will be interesting to see how it goes there first.

LetsBePartOfThe... replied to ktache | 3 years ago

My cycling takes me alongside the M25 where I often see at least four lanes of stationary traffic nose to tail.  
And past schools where the parents are waiting outside in stationary cars with the engines still running - generating pollution in the air being breathed my their very own children in the classrooms.

I find myself saying to myself, "what on earth are you all doing. Can you not see yourselves". 

I would like to believe that lockdown has changed all of that. I guess we'll get to know very shortly.


ktache | 3 years ago

Good luck and I welcome all the new commuting cyclists.

But good intentions are one thing, many gym memberships get purchased in early January.

STiG911 | 3 years ago

Yep - future cyclist commuter here!

Depending on when I start going back into that London, I'll be getting myself a fold-up instead of walking from liverpool Street to Monument and Tube-ing it to Embankment. Missus was firmly against the idea of me using a bike in London, but she's even more against me being crammed in a metal tube no matter for how long. (It's worth noting that my overland provider has stated that they intend on continuing limiting tickets for some considerable time yet, so no fears on that score)

That said, my employer has been brilliant to all it's staff, and is not pressuring anyone to be back in the office until next year at the earliest. I've been WFH since March 9th, and did so for two days a week before this anyway, so it's not been much of a stretch for me. My ideal plan is to bring forward our planned move to the Caribbean, continue to WFH and hope no one notices, hehe.

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