Report findings ‘strengthen the case for investment in cycling’: Sustrans

12.00 | 19 July 2017 | | 4 comments

A new report has found that the Government’s Cycling City and Towns programme, which ran between 2008-2011, resulted in increased levels of cycling in all 12 participating cities and towns.

The Cycling City and Towns programme, delivered by Cycling England, saw authorities given funding comparable to some cities in Europe. The focus was on encouraging more cycling for short ‘everyday’ urban trips, which when made by car contribute disproportionately to congestion.

The towns and cities tailored their investment programmes according to their respective needs – some concentrated on building new cycle routes and networks, while others developed large scale cycle training programmes.

The report, commissioned by the DfT and produced by Sustrans, shows that the programme led to a 24% increase in the number of cycling trips over the three years – an average of 8% per year.

Sustrans says all of the participating towns experienced an increase in cycling, adding that ‘these findings help strengthen the case for investment in cycling, and can inspire and encourage other towns and cities to plan and implement programmes that get more people on their bikes’.

The rate of increase varied across the towns and cities, with the largest increases seen in Stoke-on-Trent (62%) and Greater Bristol (40%). Areas with already very high levels of cycling, such as York and Cambridge, saw smaller increases (6% and 9% respectively).

Dr Andy Cope, from Sustrans, told the Bike Biz website: “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 former board member of Cycling England, also told Bike Biz: “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.”

Want to know more about cycling and road safety?
Online library of research and reports etc – visit the Road Safety Knowledge Centre
Key facts and summaries of research reports – visit the Road Safety Observatory


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    A closer look at the report shows very small absolute numbers (less than one hundred increase per day). In other words probably not great value for money compared to other transport investments.

    peter, liverpool
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    I would suggest that seeing that Sustrans has a stake and financial benefit in the promotion of cycling and has done lots of work making cycling work then to have them prepare a report is somewhat dubious as it would indeed come out in favour of proceeding further with the expansion of cycling and their prolonged involvement and their receipt of more government monies.

    Bob Craven Lancs
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    The report concludes: Insufficient robust data is available to address the question of whether this increase is attributable to the investment programme, or simply reflects wider trends. Based on available evidence, we suggest that these programmes may have delivered greater uplift in cycling than would have happened without the investment, although we cannot say definitively that this is the case.

    So if I understand that, we have no proof at all that this investment has made a jot of difference to cycling. Ho hum.

    Charles, England
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    If you throw enough money at something, some of it is bound to do some good. I’m all for more money being spend on SENSIBLE cycling projects so long as safety and infrastructure improvements for motorcycling are equally well funded.

    Pat, Wales
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