UK cycling 11% above pre-pandemic level, government data shows

New government data reveals the amount of riding on the roads remains up on 2019

(Image credit: Future)

According to data published today cycling levels across the UK are 11% higher than they were in 2019 before the pandemic.

The Department for Transport’s (DfT) cycling index, which benchmarks cycling usage against a 2013 baseline which is given a scare of 100, recorded a value of 113 in December 2019 but 124 in December 2022.

In comparison, road usage by cars has fallen 5% over the same time period.

However it did find that levels are down on the previous year. In December 2021 the index stood at 128 but had dropped four points by the end of 2022.

But although the level of cycling in the UK declined slightly from the year before it has remained broadly flat through 2022. 

Cycling peaked during the pandemic sending the index to 163 in March 2021.

Over the last decade it shows cycling has increased in popularity with the index now 24 points above where it was in 2013.

Olympic legend and national active travel commissioner Chris Boardman said: “It’s great to see cycling in this country riding high at 11% above pre-pandemic levels.

"The movement for moving is catching on as more of us choose to ride bikes for everyday trips, putting the joy back into journeys. This is great for our health, it’s free transport and it helps us to be more connected to our communities. Everyone's a winner.”   

The data used by the index is collected from a series of 128 automatic traffic counters positioned on a variety of main roads across the UK. The data cannot give absolute levels of cycling usage but can point to prevalent trends for the use of bikes.

The April release of the data was the first. The Department for Transport will now release comparable figures every month.

The new DfT data contrasts somewhat with figures published in September last year which showed only 2% of journeys in the UK were made by bike and that cycling levels had fallen back to it pre-pandemic levels. 

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

The state of racing in the UK appears to be much worse than general cycle use, as British Cycling's last annual report found that people entering racing events in 2022 stood at just 60% of its pre-pandemic level.

In October 2022 race organiser and vice chair of British Cycling Yorkshire Marc Etches told CW: "At the moment, we're just stuck," said Marc Etches, race organiser and vice chair of British Cycling Yorkshire. "It's not just the youth [events] or the adults, it's across all of them.

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Having trained as a journalist at Cardiff University I spent eight years working as a business journalist covering everything from social care, to construction to the legal profession and riding my bike at the weekends and evenings. When a friend told me Cycling Weekly was looking for a news editor, I didn't give myself much chance of landing the role, but I did and joined the publication in 2016. Since then I've covered Tours de France, World Championships, hour records, spring classics and races in the Middle East. On top of that, since becoming features editor in 2017 I've also been lucky enough to get myself sent to ride my bike for magazine pieces in Portugal and across the UK. They've all been fun but I have an enduring passion for covering the national track championships. It might not be the most glamorous but it's got a real community feeling to it.