Cycling boom continues in the UK, but bike trips to school are still low

The amount of miles people ride on average per year has more than doubled since 2002

Richmond Park
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The UK government has released the latest figures for cycling and walking in the country in the past year.

Cycling is clearly booming with the average person riding more than double the amount of miles as they were in 2002.

The data, published on September 22,  collected for this release by the government came from the 2020 National Travel Survey (NTS) and the 2019/20 Active Lives Survey (ALS).

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In the first line of data it shows that cycling 'stages' have increased by 23 per cent between 2019, with 17 stages being the per person average, and 2020 where it rose to 21 stages per person, this is the highest level since 2002. 

Stages refer to stage within a journey, so could be setting off from home by bike on your bike to the train station for example, cycling being a stage of that journey.

An increase of 26 per cent was seen in cycling trips where people have gone out specifically to cycle, with 16 trips per person being the 2019 average, up to 20 in 2020.

This has all lead to the average miles clocked by an average person has jumped up significantly by 62 per cent between 2019 (54 miles per person) and 2020 (88 miles) with the total number of miles being more than doubled from the original 2002 figures of 39 miles per person.

The Government graph showing the increase of cycling over the past 18 years.

(Image credit:

However, cycling to work or education dropped by 20 per cent in 2020, this is very likely linked to the Covid-19 pandemic and the fact that more people were having to work from home as offices, shops, bars, and schools all closed. 

This was shown by the huge increase of people who cycled for leisure as that went up by a massive 75 per cent in 2020.

In the list of transport, cycling has gone up by three per cent in 2020 as other transport methods become less popular. 

That being said, a 2021 survey by Sustrans shows that only two per cent of children cycle to school each day but that 14 per cent would supposedly like to.

The Sustrans survey, carried out by YouGove and covering 1,305 children aged six-15 across the UK, found that 49 per cent of children are worried about the air pollution near their school, while 57 per cent describe the environment around their school as having too many cars.

There were also 40 per cent of the children surveyed who said the best way to reduce the pollution levels is for more people to walk, cycle and scoot to school. 

Chief executive of cycling and walking charity Sustrans, Xavier Brice, said: "We must make it easier, safer and more enjoyable for children to walk, cycle, or scoot to school. 

"Not only does it improve their health and wellbeing, but it also helps them build connections with others and fosters a sense of community. This will reduce air pollution and carbon emissions, further benefitting children's health and the environment in which they live." 

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Tim Bonville-Ginn

Hi, I'm one of Cycling Weekly's content writers for the web team responsible for writing stories on racing, tech, updating evergreen pages as well as the weekly email newsletter. Proud Yorkshireman from the UK's answer to Flanders, Calderdale, go check out the cobbled climbs!

I started watching cycling back in 2010, before all the hype around London 2012 and Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de France. In fact, it was Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck's battle in the fog up the Tourmalet on stage 17 of the Tour de France.

It took me a few more years to get into the journalism side of things, but I had a good idea I wanted to get into cycling journalism by the end of year nine at school and started doing voluntary work soon after. This got me a chance to go to the London Six Days, Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of Britain to name a few before eventually joining Eurosport's online team while I was at uni, where I studied journalism. Eurosport gave me the opportunity to work at the world championships in Harrogate back in the awful weather.

After various bar jobs, I managed to get my way into Cycling Weekly in late February of 2020 where I mostly write about racing and everything around that as it's what I specialise in but don't be surprised to see my name on other news stories.

When not writing stories for the site, I don't really switch off my cycling side as I watch every race that is televised as well as being a rider myself and a regular user of the game Pro Cycling Manager. Maybe too regular.

My bike is a well used Specialized Tarmac SL4 when out on my local roads back in West Yorkshire as well as in northern Hampshire with the hills and mountains being my preferred terrain.