Most people support cycling but are worried about what others think, according to new research

It looks like pro-cycling initiatives might be blocked by a loud minority

(Image credit: AFP via Getty Images)

For cyclists and would-be bike riders, the lack of support for those on two wheels can often be frustrating.

Authorities are often reluctant to build infrastructure through fear of a backlash from motorists, which can often result in important safety features being ditched.

But new research has revealed that most people are in fact in favour of cycling, but that they fear the voice of a vocal minority.

The latest YouGov researched, analysed by environmental psychologist Dr Ian Walker from the University of Bath, found that 77 per cent of Brits actually support measures that encourage people to walk and cycle in their local area.

Despite their own support, many people drastically overestimated the opposition of their friends or the general public, which may be stopping them for speaking up about their own support for cycling.

Dr Walker said: “Perhaps one reason negative voices find it so easy to sway things their way is that people have a tendency to misjudge public levels of support. The survey showed that, while most people think Britain would be a better place if more people cycled, they also guessed that other people were less supportive, and more hostile, to the idea than they were.”

The survey involved asking 2,010 British adults about their views on making changes to the streets to give more priority to cyclists and walkers over drivers. For every one person who was against supporting cyclists, 6.5 people were actually in support, while 80 per cent said the UK’s streets should be redesigned to protect cyclists and walkers from motorists.

Adam Tranter, a spokesperson for the huge #BikeisBest campaign which launched recently, said: “The small minority getting all revved up about their right to drive are having their voices heard through sheer volition. If the silent majority want to see this new, greener, better Britain, they need to act now or face going back to the old normal, with polluted and dangerous streets.

“When 20mph streets were first proposed, pro-motoring groups were whipped up into a frenzy, just as they are today. In 2017, data showed that the proportion opposed or strongly opposed to residential 20mph limits was just 10 per cent. The same is happening here with measures to enable more people to switch their journeys to cycling and walking.”

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Tranter added: “No-one is saying that all journeys can be cycled or walked but many of our towns and cities are experiencing congestion - not because of cycle lanes but because of people using their car for short journeys, often under two miles. Local authorities need to stand up and refuse to be bullied into a U-turn on plans to turn Britain into a better place. These are plans the public agree with, so people also need to speak up so their silence isn’t taken as consent to keep our streets dominated by motor vehicles.”

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Alex Ballinger
Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.