Investing in cycling pays off, finds new DfT-commissioned study

A new study analysing the Government’s Cycling City and Towns programme demonstrates that cycling trips increased over the lifespan of the project.

Commissioned by the Department for Transport and published by Sustrans the study identified that the programme delivered by Cycling England led to an increase in the number of trips by bike overall and in each town and city, although by different amounts.

The Cycling City and Towns programme ran in 12 towns and cities from 2008-2011. Automatic count data shows that cycling trips increased by 24 percent over three years and on average by 8 percent per year.

The largest increases were in Stoke-on-Trent (62 percent) and Greater Bristol (40 percent), with further growth achieved even in areas with already very high levels of cycling such as York (6 percent) and Cambridge (9 percent).

The Cycling Demonstration Towns follow-on programme in six towns received investment in 2005-2008 and again in 2008-2011. Cycling trips increased by 29 percent over five years and by 5 percent per year. Darlington (59 percent) and Exeter (45 percent) showed particularly high rates of growth, says the report.

The programmes set out to provide funding to towns and cities that was comparable to funding levels in Europe. The overall annual expenditure per head of population was £14 for just under three years in 12 towns and cities, and £17 for five-and-a-half years in the six remaining areas.

The towns and cities tailored the content of their investment programmes according to their respective needs. While some towns and cities concentrated more heavily on building new routes and networks, others developed large scale training programmes and worked with schools and employers, alongside route development.

Dr Andy Cope, Director of Insight, Research & Monitoring Unit at Sustrans, said: “The evidence of the study is clear – increasing levels of cycling in our towns and cities is very much possible.

“The growth in cycle trips in the participating towns and cities reflects the fact that investment comparable to that spent in Denmark and the Netherlands stimulates changes in levels of cycling. The study also indicates sustained long-term commitment to investment in cycling is key to growing cycle use.

“We can confidently say the results of the programmes are replicable in towns and cities across the UK. If we want to build on this success, we need strong leadership and long-term commitment from both national and local governments.”

Lynn Sloman, a board member of Transport for London and a former board member of Cycling England, said: “The programmes enabled a whole new way of thinking about cycling investment to develop – we realised that it was essential to tackle all of multiple reasons why people did not cycle.

“We need a sustained investment programme targeting the same places over at least one decade, and ideally two.

“It’s about time that Transport Ministers stepped up their ambition for high quality, long-term, proactively-led cycling investment programmes that made best possible use of public money. Then we might really start to look like a cycling country.”

The study was commissioned by the Department for Transport and it was conducted by Sustrans, in partnership with Transport for Quality of Life, Cavill Associates and University of the West of England.

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