Only 2% of all trips in England made by bicycle as cycling drops to pre-pandemic levels

Survey shows cycling fell back to pre-pandemic levels after councils removed infrastructure

Cyclist in London
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Cycling activity in England has fallen back to pre-pandemic levels, government statistics show. 

According to the latest National Travel Survey, published on Wednesday by the Department for Transport, the average person in England made just 2% of all their trips by cycling in 2021.

The study also revealed that the average number of trips made by bicycle dropped to 15 per person last year, down from 20 in 2020. 

Sarah Mitchell, chief executive of Cycling UK, said in a statement: “It’s sadly no surprise that last year those cycling levels dropped, as some short-sighted councils began pulling out the protected lanes which kept people safe, and traffic levels rose again."

With fewer cars on the road in 2020 due to the pandemic, bicycle usage peaked throughout the UK. Mitchell added that, as people turn to bicycles for shorter journeys, national and local governments should focus on building cycling infrastructure to ensure road users feel safe. 

“This has the potential to bring huge benefits to all of us,” Mitchell said. “The short-term benefit is that people will be able to keep making those essential journeys to work, to school, to the shops by bike.

“The long-term benefits will be improvements to the nation’s health, economy and environment.”

In keeping with the decrease in the number of trips, the average mileage per person also fell to pre-pandemic trends, dropping from 88 miles in 2020 to 55 miles in 2021.

The survey showed that cars accounted for 59% of all trips, making them the most popular choice of transport in 2021.

Sally Copley, executive director of external affairs at walking and cycling charity Sustrans, said: “It’s simple. Today’s data shows that if we want more people to walk, wheel and cycle, then the way we get around must be safe, accessible and appealing.

“During the pandemic, when there were fewer cars on the road, the public took to their bikes. It’s sad to see this return to expensive and pollutant car-use, especially as the urgency for alternatives has only increased, alongside the cost-of-living.” 

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