School of Business and Economics

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22 Sep 2015

Study shows Cycle Network gets people on their bikes

Simona Rascuite Simona Rascuite

The National Cycle Network is encouraging more people to cycle more often according to figures unveiled by Loughborough researchers.

Professor Paul Downward from the University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences and Dr Simona Rasciute from the School of Business and Economics studied entries from Sport England’s Active People Survey (APS) and found proximity to the Network was a strong driver for regularly taking part in moderate intensity recreational cycling for 30 minutes or more, as well as short cycle commutes.

It was also found that people who cycled recreationally were also more likely to take part in other forms of physical activity.

In addition, the study found that:

  • Cyclists are far more active than non-cyclists, undertaking almost 30% more minutes of walking and 80% more minutes of sports participation.
  • Cyclists are more likely to be white British, be in work or studying, have a higher education, and be younger and male.
  • Family life reduces the likelihood of utilitarian cycling (i.e., commuting), but the presence of children can increase the potential for recreational cycling.   
  • Utilitarian cycling is closely linked to increased walking time.

Lead researcher Professor Downward said: 

It is clear that the National Cycle Network has a strong effect on the amount of time people spend cycling, whether that’s for recreational or transport purposes.

Not only does greater access to the Network imply that people cycle for longer, but they also cycled more frequently.

Our data shows the potential of the Network in helping encourage people to be more active and lead healthier lifestyles.

Melissa Henry, Sustrans Communications and Marketing Director, said:

It should come as no surprise that when people have safer, quieter cycle routes near to them, they will use them. We have seen this across the National Cycle Network since Sustrans first developed it 20 years ago.

Clearly there is an appetite from people to ride their bikes and walk more of their journeys, they just need the right environment to do it, which is why we’re calling on the government to commit to funding for cycling and walking to be equivalent of 5% of the transport budget. Only by increasing funding can we hope to bring cycling to everyone’s doorstep, whatever their age, sex or background.

The paper, Assessing the impact of the National Cycle Network and physical activity lifestyle on cycling behaviour in England, has been published in Volume 78 of Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice.