Cycling numbers in Britain declining despite lockdown easing and increased cycling infrastructure

Cycling numbers are declining after an initial spike during mid-coronavirus lockdown, according to latest government figures.

Despite greater measures and restrictions placed on motorists, car usage as a mode of transport has steadily increased over the last three months. In contrast, as lockdown eases and more people return to work or travel to visit friends and family, the cycling boom has started to pull on the brakes.

The London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, initially said there could be a “ten-fold” increase in the number of cycling journeys being made daily. As a result, the Mayor and transport regulators Transport of London (TfL) have, like other local authorities throughout the UK, embarked on schemes to transform road surface transport in favour of cyclists and pedestrians.

In 2018 only 2% of all journeys were made using a pedal bike. Latest data released by the Department of Transport (DfT) shows current usage trends dropping when compared to journeys made on similar days in 2019. In the week commencing 24 August, three of the seven days recorded lower bike usage than in the same week of 2019.

Graph: Figures are percentages of an equivalent day or week (DfT data)

Whilst people move back towards traditional transport options available to them before the pandemic hit, the Government and local authorities have pushed on with plans to focus on the cycling and walking infrastructure.

In the new plans, the Prime Minister aims to set out a comprehensive, long term vision to increase active travel and embed the benefits of walking and cycling into how communities all over England live, work and get around.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “From helping people get fit and healthy and lowering their risk of illness, to improving air quality and cutting congestion, cycling and walking have a huge role to play in tackling some of the biggest health and environmental challenges that we face.

“But to build a healthier, more active nation, we need the right infrastructure, training and support in place to give people the confidence to travel on two wheels.

“That’s why now is the time to shift gears and press ahead with our biggest and boldest plans yet to boost active travel – so that everyone can feel the transformative benefits of cycling.”

As part of those plans, the Government have committed £2billion of ‘new’ money announced earlier this year to walking and cycling projects.

However, Howard Cox of the public affairs team at FairFuelUK Campaign was quick to voice his concerns, saying: "In his latest craving to make us all thin and healthy, our Prime Minister is happy to make our towns and cities no go zones for the internal combustion engine. Favouring only 3% of road users in the UK, Boris is to betray the world’s already highest taxed motorists, van drivers and truckers to put in place virtual signalling urban no driving areas, to be replaced with taxpayers financed cycleways, that the massive majority will not use.

“This Government's ignorance will decimate businesses and the economies of our major towns and cities and is a naive knee jerk response to those emotive driven, well financed, so called environmental groups based in the London bubble. FairFuelUK will fight this strategy tooth and nail."