‘Disheartening’ - Fewer cyclists in Birmingham than before pandemic

Fewer people were cycling in Birmingham last year than in 2019, new figures show.
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Fewer people were cycling in Birmingham last year than in 2019, new figures show.

A cycling charity has called for greater funding for environmentally-friendly travel as cycling rates remain below pre-pandemic levels across England.

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The Active Lives Survey from Sport England is used to assess how much exercise people are getting across the country. Figures from the survey, compiled by the Department for Transport, show 7.6% of people in Birmingham were cycling at least once a month in the year to November 2022 – a fall from 8.9% in 2019. Across England, 16.1% of people said they biked once a month in 2019 – this has since fallen to 13.1%.

Cycling UK – which campaigns for better access to cycling across the country – called the figures disheartening, especially given a spike at the height of the pandemic when fewer cars were on the road.

Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at the charity, said: "This should be a wake-up call for a government that's slashed dedicated funding for cycling and walking by more than two thirds, and has been told in crystal clear terms by the National Audit Office that it can’t meet its own targets to increase levels of cycling without substantially increasing investment."

Provisional data from the Department for Transport – taken from traffic counts – shows 5% fewer bikes on the road in June 2023 than a year before.

Cycling numbers drop in BirminghamCycling numbers drop in Birmingham
Cycling numbers drop in Birmingham
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Mr Dollimore continued: "Multiple government policies recognise the carbon reduction, public health, air pollution and economic benefits which flow from more people cycling and walking, particularly for short journeys. It’s imperative that the Government reflects on these figures and urgently reverses the cuts in the Autumn Statement."

According to the Active Lives Survey, much of the dip in cycling across England has come from fewer people cycling for leisure – 13.1% did so at least once a month in 2019, compared to 9.2% last year. Birmingham saw a drop over the same period, from 6.8% to 5.1%.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: "Overall, the numbers of people choosing to walk or cycle increasing over the past year has returned to pre-pandemic levels and we are well on the way to half of all short journeys in towns and cities being walked or cycled by 2030. This has been supported by our investment of over £3 billion into walking and cycling to 2025," they added.

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