The fifth edition of Transport Trends, published last week, provides an introduction to the major trends in travel in the UK, and tracks them against data captured over the past twenty years. Cycle use as a mode of transport, rather than leisure, is spiralling downwards. If Government targets to increase cycle use are to be met (which is unlikely, as most of the other 400 targets in other policy areas are not being hit), there needs to be a major rethink in the way cycling is promoted to the public.

Cycle use falls, government needs to act

Right now, it’s not being promoted at all.

However, a plan to be put before the Department of Transport by the end of January, may see the provision of £1.5m a year for five years. It’s probable that to be eligible for this annual cash hand-out (which is pitifully small compared to the money is costs to build one mile of a bypass) cycle bodies and organisations will need to unite under an umbrella organisation. Who’s for a Bicycle Coalition, then?

Or perhaps the cash could be funnelled through the National Cycle Strategy Board?

All that’s for the future, though. In the meantime, here are the latest transport trends:

* Road traffic has grown by 73 per cent since 1980. The majority of the growth has been in car traffic. Motorways account for less than one per cent of road length, but carry 20 per cent of total traffic.

* Over the last 20 years, the overall cost of motoring has remained at or below its 1980 level (in real terms), and petrol prices have increased by 12 per cent, while bus fares have risen by 31 per cent and rail fares by 37 per cent. Over the same period, average disposable income has gone up by more than 80 per cent. Transport generally has therefore become more affordable, car use more so than public transport.

* The proportion of households with access to a car continues to increase. There are now more households with access to two or more cars than there are households without a car. Adults in households with two cars travel on average nearly four times further than those in households without a car. 62 per cent of households in the lowest income quintile do not have a car.

* 69 per cent of people go to work by car (up from 59 per cent in 1985/86), 7 per cent by bus and 11 per cent on foot. Since 1985/6, the proportion of primary school children going to school by car has increased from 22 to 39 per cent, though 54 per cent walk. Among secondary school children, 18 per cent go by car, 43 per cent walk and 32 per cent go by bus. There have been signs that the proportions of children taken to school by car have stabilised since the mid 1990s.

* In terms of fatalities per passenger kilometre, air continues to be the safest mode of transport. Travel by two-wheeled motor vehicle, pedal cycle, or on foot, has continued to be significantly less safe than travel by other modes. However, while pedestrian and pedal cyclist safety has improved in recent years, the fatality rate for two-wheeled vehicles has worsened and is now about three a half times the rate for pedal cyclists, and two and a half times the rate for pedestrians.

* Walking and cycling have both declined significantly over the past twenty years. The distance people walk on average has fallen by about one third, and distance cycled by about 14 per cent. The accompanying growth in motorised transport has resulted in a 39 per cent increase in greenhouse gas emissions from transport, which now accounts for 26 per cent of UK emissions. Two thirds of people now understand that transport emissions are a major factor contributing to climate change.

* Improvements in fuel efficiency for individual vehicles have been balanced out by the growth in the volume of traffic. Most of transport’s increase in energy consumption during the 1990s was accounted for by aviation, up from 7 to 12 million tonnes of oil equivalent.

* Walking and cycling can contribute to personal well being through exercise. However, walking and cycling on public highways, parks and cycle-ways have both been in long-term decline as car ownership and use have increased and, particularly so far as walking is concerned, there is no sign of this trend being reversed. It should however be noted that these figures exclude walking or cycling on paths and bridle-ways in the countryside.

Average trip length has been fairly stable over the years, at around 0.6 miles.

The number of cycle stages declined steadily between 1985/86 and 1999/2001, from 25 to 16 per person per year in Great Britain – down 36 per cent. There has been a smaller decrease in the average distance cycled of 14 per cent, from 44 to 38 miles a year. Average trip length has increased over the years, from 1.8 to 2.5 miles. The Government has a target to triple the number of cycling trips in England by 2010, compared with a 2000 base.

* The recommended amount of exercise is 30 minutes a day, which could be achieved by walking or cycling for some short journeys. However, estimates based on National Travel Survey data suggest that only 15 per cent (fewer than one in six) of the population averaged at least 30 minutes walk a day over the course of a week in 1999/2001. This is down slightly compared with 1985/86, but even then only 20 per cent (one in five) of the population averaged at least 30 minutes walk a day over the course of a week. And only 2 per cent made even one cycle journey of 30 minutes or more in a week in 1999/2001 – unchanged since 1985/86.

* In a household survey in 2001 nearly a half (47 per cent) of people mentioned at least one improvement that would be needed for them to consider cycling more. Most frequently mentioned were better/safer cycling routes (32 per cent), more cycling routes (31 per cent) and cycle parking facilities (28 per cent). Drivers’ attitudes towards cyclists were also important – mentioned by 26 per cent.

All these trends were from:…/section2.htm

For the latest Department of Transport factsheet on cycle use trends download this PDF:…/cyce.pdf

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