“Radical shift” in travel patterns across West Yorkshire caused by COVID-19

COVID-19 has caused a “radical shift” in people’s transport and working patterns across West Yorkshire.

An online survey of over 2,000 regular public transport, carried out by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority in June, found that despite rising car use, there was a “strong intention” to walk or cycle more.

31% of respondents said they expected to travel by car or van more in the coming weeks – however an equal 31% said they would cycle more now and 37% said they would travel on foot.

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and leader of Bradford Council, said: “We have seen large numbers of public transport users switching to other ways of getting about because of the COVID-19 changes to our way of life, including a big increase in walking and cycling both for work and leisure.

“Pre-lockdown, the Combined Authority had made a significant investment in improving cycling and walking routes across our region and promoting these as an option for work and leisure. From connecting people across our region, to reducing air pollution and congestion, and combatting physical inactivity and obesity, we know increasing the numbers of people choosing to travel by bike or on foot has a vital role to play in making West Yorkshire a great place to live, work and play.

“Our transport survey has also shown a clear divide between the most and least affluent in our region, with people living in the most disadvantaged areas far less likely to be able to work from home and considering alternative modes of transport as a result.”

The majority of those who cycled (73%) and walked (61%) more than before lockdown said it was a positive experience and 45% said quieter or safer roads were positive aspects of walking, running or cycling.

While the rise in cycling and walking was mostly for exercise or recreation, a significant proportion was as an alternative to public transport (40% walking, 28% cycling) with 59% of walkers saying they would be willing to walk up to half an hour, and the majority of cyclists (78%) willing to cycle for 30-60 minutes.

8% of respondents said they had thought about buying a car, but 11% had thought about buying a bicycle or electric bicycle, with those aged 16-34 much more likely to be considering buying a bike or e-bike. The survey also revealed differing experiences of lockdown among West Yorkshire’s communities – those in the region’s most disadvantaged communities are more likely to still be leaving the house for work and have been forced to find alternatives to public transport.

Only half of the respondents living in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods have worked from home during lockdown, compared to 78% in more affluent areas. Because of the need to find alternatives to public transport, roughly equal numbers of those living in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods had thought about buying a car (12%) or a bike (11%).

The findings are from an online survey of over 2,199 regular public transport users conducted through the Combined Authority’s YourVoice engagement service. The survey took place from 12th-22nd June.

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