Why Have Numbers Cycling to Work Fallen Locally?

In the Spring of 2014, the Government released an analysis of the 2011 Census Cycling to Work data.  These figures reveal that London experienced a doubling of numbers cycling to work between 2001 and 2011.  Other cities with a significant rise included Brighton (increasing by 109%), Bristol (94%), Manchester (83%), Newcastle (81%) and Sheffield (80%).

However, the figures for Cheshire West and Chester tell a different story.  Between 2001 and 2011, we experienced a 0.4% drop in the numbers cycling to work.  This is in spite of the Cycle Demonstration Town initiative, new maps being produced, the Connect2 projects, and various other infrastructure improvements that were carried out during the ten year period between 2001 and 2011.  The figures also fail to reflect any benefit from the effort that the council and others have devoted to ‘soft measures’ such as travel advice, personal travel plans, etc.

The period under analysis ends before the 2012 Olympics and so will not reflect any post-Olympic cycling boom.  However, some rise in the numbers cycling to work might have been expected due to the factors mentioned above.

What do you think explains this apparent anomaly?  Bad weather in 2011?  Wording of Census question?  Initial enthusiasm for cycling wearing off after the first flush of CDT initiatives?

Please let us have your thoughts using the Comments form below!

Click the link below to view the full ONS summary of the national Cycling to Work data:

Office for National Statistics 2011 Census Cycling to Work Analysis



  1. 0.4% looks pretty insignificant. The levels are not falling they are stagnating and the reasons should be pretty obvious – in the past ten years, nothing truly significant has been done in Chester to make cycling a viable mode of transport for the average person. The small number of measures implemented and small amount of money allocated to cycling in the past decade have been spent promoting leisure and sport cycling. I haven’t seen anything deliberate which improves the viability of cycling as a mode of transport in Chester

  2. When I have asked people why they don’t cycle, the response notes concern about cycling in dense traffic & lack of shower facilities on arrival at work.
    It could be that people are inherantly lazy of course,& that it’s too easy to drive!

  3. My own suspicion, based on observations and conversations with people, is that numbers cycling to work in Chester itself may have gone up, with other (especially rural) areas accounting for the decline. In part this could be due to continual movement of job opportunities out of smaller towns and villages and towards larger centres.

    It certaintly feels as if overall cycling numbers have gone up, although I appreciate that a lot of that could be leisure riding rather than commuting.

    But as CWaC do not seem to have any interest / will to monitor cycling numbers in Chester – which has been the focus of many of the initiatives – then these subtleties cannot be picked out. This is a shame, because it is hard for officers and politicians to keep selling the idea of spending money on cycling if no monitoring is available to show how effective it is. It may well be that in Chester itself there has been a reasonable increase – which could be a great news stroy – but we’ll probably never know. Another opportinity missed?

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