Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

news

Lockdown sees cycling gender gap narrow, government statistics reveal

Men still made twice as many trips by bike as women last year – but it was three times as many in 2019

The government-imposed lockdown to try and contain the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the gender gap in cycling in England narrowing, according to statistics published today by the Department for Transport (DfT).

The report, Walking and Cycling Statistics, England: 2020, brings together existing data from a number of different official sources, adjusted to reflect the calendar year, thereby providing a snapshot of changes over the 12-month period.

It also reveals that people in England made 20 cycling trips – journeys where cycling is the main mode of transport in terms of distance – during the year, a 26 per cent increase on 2019.

The average number of miles cycled by person showed even stronger growth, up from 54 miles per person in 2019 to 88 miles per person last year, an increase  of 62 per cent, according to data from The National Travel Attitudes Survey highlighted in the report.

With walking and cycling being two permitted forms of outdoor exercise during lockdown, as well as many people working from home and continuing to do so even once restrictions were eased, for the first time leisure moved ahead of utility trips to account for the highest number of cycling stages – that is, where travel by bike forms part of a journey also involving other modes.

In all cases cited above, and in the figures for men and women below, those are average figures for the population as a whole, so the number of trips and total distance travelled among people who actually cycle will be significantly higher.

In last year’s report, covering 2019, men made three times as many trips as women – 24 vs 8 – and cycled nearly four times further during the year, at 86 miles vs 23 miles.

Last year saw a significant narrowing of the gap on both measures. During 2020, men made on average 28 trips, just over twice as many as the 13 carried out by women, while aggregate distance ridden by men was 127 miles compared to 50 for women, 2.5 times higher.

By age, men aged 17-20 and 40-49 made the most trips, at 40 and 39 respectively, while among women the greatest number of trips were carried out by those aged 40-49, at 21.

Cycling trips by gender and age 2020.PNG

Factors that would encourage people to cycle more were mainly related to safety and infrastructure.

Chief among those were off-road and segregated cycle paths (highlighted by 55 per cent of respondents), safer roads (53 per cent) and well-maintained road surfaces for cycling (49 per cent).

The same survey also revealed that men, at 74 per cent, feel more confident riding a bike than women do, at 43 per cent.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns said: “These latest figures give the lie to the argument that people won’t cycle in England.

“If people feel the conditions are safe enough – as many felt they were during lockdown – we will see more cycling and not just of the same largely male demographic.

“It’s incredibly encouraging seeing the number of women cycling has shot up from a quarter of all cycling trips in 2019 to nearly a third in 2020.

“The overall close to 50 per cent increase in the number of people cycling at least once per week also shows we’re seeing people new to cycling start to ride too – the challenge is to grow these levels  and narrow the gender split going forward.

“As the government heads to COP26, and makes preparations for the spending review in October, a clear statement of intent would be to make sure cycling and walking are properly funded.

“It shouldn’t take a pandemic to produce an increase in cycling, but it’s an opportunity to build on the government would be mad to ignore.”

Citing preliminary figures of reported road casualties in Great Britain in 2020, today's report also noted that there had been an 11 per cent increase in the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured (KSI) in the past decade.

The increase between 2019 and 2020, when there were 4,210 and 4,340 KSIs, respectively, stood at 3 per cent – much lower than the year-on-year growth in cycling. 

As we reported in June, the preliminary figures also show a 40 per cent increase in the number of cyclists killed during the year, with 140 riders losing their lives.

The DfT claimed at the time that the increase was primarily due to the greater aggregate distance being cycled, but the charity Cycling UK said it believed poor driving was to blame.

> Number of cyclists killed on British roads up 40 per cent in 2020

Detailed figures of reported road casualties are due to be published next Thursday 30 September.

Simon joined road.cc 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.

Add new comment

9 comments

Avatar
qwerty360 | 2 years ago
0 likes

I have to agree that this graph is relatively useless to make many statements from.

While trips is probably a good way to measure use of bikes as transport (because milage is clearly massively biased by leasure - Without covid I usually do 11 trips/week, of which 10 are commuting and 1 is leasure, but by milage the leasure is 10x the others combined...)) but any regular cycle commuter will do the yearly average trips in under a month...

 

That means we should be using something like a boxplot as that shows a rough guide to the distribution (easily as important if not more so than the average)...

Avatar
brooksby | 2 years ago
4 likes

Hang on - the average person made 20 trips where the bicycle was the main form of transport.  During the entire year??  That's pretty appalling.

(Also shows that a core of regular cyclists must really bring the average up).

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
4 likes
brooksby wrote:

Hang on - the average person made 20 trips where the bicycle was the main form of transport.  During the entire year??  That's pretty appalling.

(Also shows that a core of regular cyclists must really bring the average up).

It is appalling, and there couldn't be a clearer demonstration of the range of mountains to be climbed to make cycling a viable option for short journeys for most people.  The amount of resources being dedicated to active travel is woefully inadequate (it's worse, but I don't want to swear) to achieve any significant change, but change has never been more necessary or urgent.  Instead, we still have the £27bn road building programme and the £110bn+ HS2 fiasco.

We have obesity overwhelming the NHS, car congestion, deaths and injuries, local pollution, the existential threat of climate change, all of which would be tackled to some extent by switching from cars to bikes, but the msm, especially the BBC, deliberately ignores it.

Avatar
Awavey replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
2 likes

For the purposes of the survey yes it's always remarkable to see how little cycling they consider makes you a cyclist.

Only a few years back I think they were still counting static gym bikes as part of cycling. Of course some would argue now with Peloton and Zwift they should count.

But that's why I always urge caution to take too much from these stats too seriously.

Avatar
Steve K replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
4 likes
brooksby wrote:

Hang on - the average person made 20 trips where the bicycle was the main form of transport.  During the entire year??  That's pretty appalling.

(Also shows that a core of regular cyclists must really bring the average up).

It does feel one of those cases where the mean is a pretty meaningless stat.  I suspect there is pretty much no-one who does 20 trips where the bicycle was the main form of transport.  If you cycle enough to do 20 trips, the chances are you cycle loads more than that.

Avatar
brooksby replied to Steve K | 2 years ago
1 like
Steve K wrote:
brooksby wrote:

Hang on - the average person made 20 trips where the bicycle was the main form of transport.  During the entire year??  That's pretty appalling.

(Also shows that a core of regular cyclists must really bring the average up).

It does feel one of those cases where the mean is a pretty meaningless stat.  I suspect there is pretty much no-one who does 20 trips where the bicycle was the main form of transport.  If you cycle enough to do 20 trips, the chances are you cycle loads more than that.

Well, yeah, but twenty trips in a year?? That's less than one trip per week.

Avatar
Steve K replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
4 likes
brooksby wrote:
Steve K wrote:
brooksby wrote:

Hang on - the average person made 20 trips where the bicycle was the main form of transport.  During the entire year??  That's pretty appalling.

(Also shows that a core of regular cyclists must really bring the average up).

It does feel one of those cases where the mean is a pretty meaningless stat.  I suspect there is pretty much no-one who does 20 trips where the bicycle was the main form of transport.  If you cycle enough to do 20 trips, the chances are you cycle loads more than that.

Well, yeah, but twenty trips in a year?? That's less than one trip per week.

Well yes, that's what I mean.  It's the average over the whole population.  So if 80% of the population doesn't cycle at all, those that do cycle are making on average 100 trips a year (which, I grant you, is still pretty low as it's only one return trip a week).

Avatar
Awavey replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
0 likes

It's at least data that's comparable to other years as the methodology is broadly the same, even if I always question the reliability of these stats as it's sourced from that active lives survey, and a national travel survey, and they often make eye catching headlines, which the underlying data doesnt support.

Take the NTS as a random example youd think from these headlines all cycling stats went up,but the NTS reports trips per rider went down in 2020,is trending down, and near matches numbers we havent seen for a decade. It also only had roughly half as many cycling individual responses than the normal sample size,but they recorded more miles travelled.

It also warns the small sample size means results should be interpreted with caution, the bit the headline/press releases miss out.

What was more interesting I thought also released today were the Transport use during the coronavirus pandemic stats http://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/transport-use-during-the-coronav...

Now again the stats could be misleading as I believe for the most part are interpreted/guesstimated for cycling,whilst all the others can be measured fairly accurately.

But the overall trend even if cycling is in a slightly better position than it was pre March 2020, is usage is tailing off again, and nowhere near the heights it was 16months ago.

Avatar
mdavidford replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
0 likes

It would be informative to see what the picture was like 5 - 10 years ago, to see if this is an embedded pattern - that female riders tend to give up the bike in their late teens, but then take it up again in their twenties - or if it's a 'lost generation' that have never cycled and likely won't as they age through the groups.

Unfortunately, from what I can see, the older reports considered cycling so niche as to be not worth doing that analysis - mostly it's lumped in to 'Other'.

Latest Comments