A new study shows trips by bike have increased in 18 cities and towns in England following an investment programme to encourage cycling.
Published by the walking and cycling charity Sustrans and commissioned by the department for transport, the report found two Government-funded programmes had led to an increase in the number of trips by bike overall and in each town and city.
The Cycling City and Towns programme, which ran in 12 towns and cities from 2008-2011, led to an increase in cycling of 24% over three years and on average by 8% per year.
The largest increases were in Stoke-on-Trent (62%) and Greater Bristol (40%), with further growth even achieved in areas with already very high levels of cycling such as York (6%) and Cambridge (9%).
A second programme, the Cycling Demonstration Towns follow-on programme, carried out in six towns, received investment in 2005-2008 and again in 2008-2011.
Cycling trips increased by 29% over five years and by 5% per annum, Sustrans found. Darlington (59%) and Exeter (45%) showed particularly high rates of growth.
The overall annual expenditure per head of population for these two programmes 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 evidence of the study is clear – increasing levels of cycling in our towns and cities is very much possible,’ said Dr Andy Cope, director of insight, research & monitoring unit at Sustrans.
‘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.’
Commenting on the study, Lynn Sloman, a board member of Transport for London and a former board member of Cycling England, which delivered both programmes, 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.
‘If we really want to achieve ‘lift off’ for cycling, 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.’