£2 million ‘Cycling Revolution’ Followed by Falling Participation

London, UK

A £2 million (A$3.39 million) funding boost for cycling in the UK in 2020 was followed by a decline in riding rates, according to recently released statistics, with the blame levelled at the post-pandemic removal of cycling lanes.

In fact, the proportion of people cycling at least once a week fell to its lowest recorded level in England, the the National Travel Survey revealed.

Department for Transport figures show 9.1% of people cycled at least once a week between November 2020 and November 2021 – down from 11.6% during the 12 months ending November 2020, and 11.2% the year before.

The £2 million plan was announced by Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson as part of a “cycling revolution” to build upon increased cycling rates in the UK during the pandemic.

According to a report in the Guardian, more than half of local authorities in England experienced a decrease in the proportion of people cycling at least once a week between November 2020 and November 2021, compared with pre-pandemic rates. Levels fell in 80% of council areas compared with the Covid-fuelled cycling boom of 2019-2020.

Advocacy group Cycling UK attributed the decline to “short-sighted” councils removing protected lanes.

“The pandemic proved more people would cycle – particularly women and children – if it felt safe for them to do so. It’s sadly no surprise that last year those cycling levels dropped, as some short-sighted councils began pulling out the protected lanes which kept people safe and traffic levels rose again,” Cycling UK chief executive Sarah Mitchell says in the Guardian article.

“Both national and local governments need to learn last year’s lessons and focus on the new crisis: cost of living. More people are turning to cycling for shorter journeys to help make ends meet, but they need the safety that dedicated cycle lanes bring.

“The short-term benefit is that people will be able to keep making those essential journeys to work, to school, to the shops by bike. The long-term benefits will be improvements to the nation’s health, economy and environment.”

The article quotes a Department for Transport spokesperson who said: “Though cycling levels have returned from the exceptional levels we saw during the pandemic, we remain fully confident our investment will enable many more people to choose walking and cycling for everyday journeys by 2030.”

DfT estimates on mobile phone data show the number of cycling trips has risen in 2022 but remain below the 2020 peak. The recovery has occurred mainly on weekdays, prompting speculation it has been unpinned by commuters turning to their bikes because of rising costs of living.

Glasgow Bike Bus

Cycling among primary school children has been boosted by UK-first technology for a ride-to-school convoy dubbed the ‘Shawlands bike bus’ in Glasgow.

The ‘ultra-smart cycle system’ temporarily adjusts the traffic light sequence at a southern Glasgow intersection so a growing convey of young riders can negotiate the intersection during their weekly convey to school.

The wireless remote control can only pause the light sequence between 8.30am and 9am on Friday mornings, a delay of 45 seconds so the approximately 50 children have time to ride through the intersection.

The success of the escorted ‘bike bus’ to encourage more children to cycle to school has prompted six other Glasgow school to like at piloting similar programs, with further schemes in Edinburgh and throughout the UK.

The concept of bike buses for young school children originated in Barcelona and has been adopted in other Spanish centres.

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