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National Travel Survey shows falling levels of young people cycling 06/08/2010

Posted by Clive Andrews in Clive.
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One of the great things about Bike Club is the way we get to tap into the expertise of the three organisations that form the Bike Club consortium: UK Youth, ContinYou and CTC – the national cyclists’ organisation.

The government recently published their National Travel Survey, looking at the stats and patterns in the UK’s transport habits during 2009.

The campaigning department at CTC thrives on this kind of data, and Chris Peck shared some of the survey’s insights with me. It is a mixed picture.

In general, there is good news. Levels of cycling are rising in some sectors of the population, and remaining broadly static overall.

But when we look at the 11 – 17 age group, there’s an obvious downward trend in the levels of cycling over the last few decades.

(Click for a clearer image)

In the mid seventies, boys aged 11-17 would ride an average of over 200 miles each year and girls of the same age would ride an average of over 50 miles annually.

If we look at the same groups during the last decade, cycling by young people has decreased to around a third of the level 30 years ago.

Interestingly, when we view these trends beside the figues for adult cycling, we see that cycling levels among adults have remained broadly static. We have moved from a situation where cycling is a very popular mode of transport among young people to one where young people cycle about as much as people of their their parents’ age.

(Click for a larger image)

So what do we think about this?

  • Why have levels of young people’s cycling reduced to a level similar to that of adults?
  • Why do girls continue to cycle at a significantly lower level to boys, regardless of the decade?

Through Bike Club, we’re supporting projects to encourage young people to use cycling as a means of transport, a way of enjoying new experiences and a source of learning.

Comments»

1. National Travel Survey shows falling levels of youth people cycling « flakes of nuisance - 07/08/2010

[...] National Travel Survey shows falling levels of youth people cycling « Bike Club. [...]

2. kimharding - 10/08/2010

A couple of thoughts.

Over the past 30 years as the levels of motorised traffic on our roads has increased, so has the anxiety of parents about allowing their children to travel by themselves. Until we reduce the risk from motor vehicles, i.e. lowering (and enforcing speed limits), increasing car free area, restricting parking, etc, we will not see a substantial rise in children and young adults cycling. The current increase in cycling is greatest among middle aged men having a mid-life crisis and worried about their body image.

As for girls not cycling, there are many reasons, but here are a few to think about:

Too much of the promotion of cycling is based on sport, not transport, it turns girls off and the cycle industry is in large part driving this.

The promotion of cycle helmets, very few kids want to wear them, and teenage girls in particular are very image sensitive. Helmets are not (and never will be) cool.

Infrastructure, there isn’t enough road space given over to cycling, for the most part, it is not possible to ride two abreast, and girls like to talk to each other. This isn’t a problem for the boys as they prefer to race each other.


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