Rise in active journeys helping reduce car use among commuters, study finds

Cycling, walking and public transport are contributing to a consistent reduction in car use among commuters, according to the latest figures from Sports Marketing Surveys.

Compared to 2020, the number of people cycling to work has ‘held up strongly’. In week one of the study, back in mid-June 2020, just 1.3% of people overall and 4.5% of all those working travelled by bike. Just over one year on, as the UK emerged from lockdown in July 2021, the figure stands at 3% of the overall population and 6.7% of those working.

Cycling’s journey share peaked at 12.6% of workers in the weeks beginning the 26th April and 3rd May. In real terms, the increase means that there was an estimated 6.9 million British adults commuting by bike at the peak.

‘Freedom day’ did not make an immediate impact on these figures, with the proportions of people working from home, travelling by bike, public transport and car remaining relatively similar to the final weeks of lockdown.

All of this is good news for the environment – a rise in active journeys has helped reduce car use compared to last summer. 53% of those travelling to work commuted by car according to the latest findings, 11 percentage points down against the figures from June 2020, which represented the peak point in the last year.

Recovering confidence in public transport is a key factor. But the number of people walking to work has remained high, up just over 6 percentage points compared to week one of the study. One in five British adults walked to a place of work in the week beginning 19th July 2021. Along with cycling, active transport seems to be becoming a long term habit rather than just a short term surge.

The results also show that while the number of people on furlough has dropped significantly compared to summer 2020, the number working from home has remained relatively consistent, with around a fifth of respondents not commuting in July 2021 for this reason.

Marc Anderman, business development manager at Sports Marketing Surveys, said: “This time last year, the Bicycle Association Market Data Service powered by SMS was picking up the sales surge as people looked for bikes that would help them exercise, travel and commute privately, without relying on a car or public transport.

“Whether or not working from home does become the norm, what’s certain is that, thanks to recent infrastructure changes and the sheer number of people who have bikes who didn’t a year ago, cycling is in an excellent position to grow its journey share in the UK. Those who bought bikes for leisure and now find themselves heading back to the office, even if part time, will find they already own the perfect tool.

“And, at the same time, others will be seeing more cyclists in more segregated cycle lanes and might also start looking to their bike for other leisure journeys at different times of the day and week.”

Read the August issue of BikeBiz below:


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