Update: The Travel to Work by Bike Report 2013 is now available. This report uses the latest Census data and looks at the ten year change in commuting habits.


Having recently completed the 2011 UK Census, at Bikes.org.uk, we thought we’d take a look back at the 2001 Census to see what the biking nation were upto back then.

Let’s start with a quick question, do more people travel to work by Bicycle or Motorbike?

The answer is more of us travel to work on a bicycle (693,000) than a motorbike, scooter or moped (272,000). Perhaps more surprising is the ratio; two-and-a-half times more people use a bicycle than a motorbike (72% v 28%) to commute to work each day, but we’ll come back to this later.

We were interested to know how many of us used a bike (bicycle or motorbike) to commute to work, how far we travelled and how old cycling commuters were. We also wanted to see how this compared by gender and by region across the UK.

First, let’s look at some of the key highlights & statistics of the report.

Report Highlights & Statistics

  • Almost one million people (965,000) commute to work each day on a Bike (bicycle or motorbike) – 693,000 people travel to work by Bicycle and 272,000 people travel to work by Motorbike, Scooter or Moped
  • Of those who travel to work on a Bike (bicycle or motorbike) 72% favour a Bicycle over a Motorbike (28%)
  • The number of people who travel to work on a Bike (bicycle or motorbike) equates to 3.6% of the total number of commuters
  • Of those who travel to work on a Bike (bicycle or motorbike), Men make up the majority with 73% and Women 27%
  • The highest number of commuting cyclists are in the South-East (118,000) whilst the lowest numbers are in the North-East of England (16,600), Wales (16,200) and Northern Ireland (5,700)
  • The average age of Men is younger than Women, at 36.7 yrs for male commuters and over forty years of age for women at 40.5 yrs
  • The average commute on a bicycle is 3.9 miles, compared to 7.7 miles for all modes of transport

There is a real North-South divide in England when it comes to travelling to work by bicycle. The highest number of commuting cyclists is in the South East and the lowest in the North East. The furthest distance travelled is in London whilst the least is in the North East. The highest proportion of Men & Women is in East England but once again the lowest is in the North East. The oldest age of commuting cyclists is in East England and the youngest in London. The following data is for England only.

HighestLowest
No. of CyclistsSouth EastNorth East
No. of Male CyclistsSouth EastNorth East
No. of Female CyclistsEast EnglandNorth East
Distance of Commute by BikeLondonNorth East
Proportion of Male CyclistsEast EnglandNorth East
Proportion of Female CyclistsEast EnglandNorth East
Age of Male CyclistsEast EnglandLondon
Age of Female CyclistsEast EnglandLondon

Bike Commuters by Gender

Almost one million people (965,000) commute to work each day on a Bike (bicycle or motorbike), of which 693,000 people travel to work by bicycle. If we look at just England & Wales (there is less information available for Scotland & Northern Ireland), the number drops slightly to 650,000, with the largest proportion being Men (475,000), and just 27% being Women (175,000).

Whilst the average ratio of women commuting on a bike is 27% of the total, the highest region is East England with more than one-third of the total (36%), the lowest are North East (16%) and Wales (16%). Despite there being less female cyclists commuting overall, there are actually more women in East England (35,700) and South East (34,600) than there are male commuters in North East (13,900) and Wales (13,600).

England & WalesNorth EastNorth WestYorkshireEast MidlandsWest MidlandsEast EnglandLondonSouth EastSouth WestWales
Men73%84%81%68%74%82%64%72%71%76%84%
Women27%16%19%32%26%18%36%28%29%24%16%

The actual number of commuters is as follows;

England & WalesNorth EastNorth WestYorks.East MidlandsWest MidlandsEast EnglandLondonSouth EastSouth WestWales
Men475,00013,90052,90043,10045,80042,70064,00056,70083,60057,80013,600
Women175,0002,70012,60019,90016,3009,70035,70022,10034,60018,2002,600

Cyclists vs Motorcyclists

As we mentioned earlier, in the UK there are more of us who travel to work on a bicycle (693,000) than a motorbike, scooter or moped (272,000). This is an average ratio of 2.5:1 across the UK as a whole. To put it another way, of those who travel to work on a Bike (bicycle or motorbike) 72% favour a Bicycle and 28% a Motorbike. However, regional differences are quite contrasting.

The lowest proportion of cyclists to motorcyclists is in Northern Ireland where there are almost as many motorcyclists (5,200) as there are cyclists (5,700) which is a ratio of 48% to 52%. This compares quite remarkably to East England where the ratio is 78% to 22%. The full regional ratios of people commuting on a bicycle vs a motorbike are as follows;

England & WalesNorth EastNorth WestYorkshireEast MidlandsWest MidlandsEast EnglandLondonSouth EastSouth WestWales
Bicycle72%71%71%75%76%72%78%62%73%69%64%
Motorbike28%29%29%25%24%28%22%38%27%31%36%

The actual number of commuters is as follows;

England & WalesNorth EastNorth WestYorks.East Mids.West Mids.East EnglandLondonSouth EastSouth WestWales
Bicycle651,00016,80066,00063,40062,60052,500100,20077,300119,00076,40016,400
Motorbike258,0007,00026,70020,90020,00020,80028,60047,10043,70034,5008,900

Note: No data is available for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Commuting Cyclists by Age

The age group with the largest number of cyclists is 35 to 39 yrs (96,000), closely followed by 30 to 34 yrs (92,000), which is all that prime of your life stuff – hang on a minute, isn’t it meant to be that Men are in their prime aged 18 yrs? Well, there are almost as many commuting aged 55 to 59 yrs (43,000) as 16 to 19 yrs (50,000).

The average age of cyclists commuting in England & Wales is 37.7 yrs with the youngest being in London aged 36.4 yrs and the oldest being in East England aged 38.9 yrs, which is not as broad a spread as we expected. Interestingly, the average age of men is younger than women, at 36.7 yrs for men and over forty years of age for women at 40.5 yrs. Only in London and Wales is the average age for women below 40 yrs.

What is quite encouraging for those of us in mid-life, is that there are over 30,000 people aged over 60 yrs that are still commuting on a bicycle. In fact, there are over 2,500 aged over 70 yrs! However, the North East and Wales aren’t regions where older cyclists still commute, with just 600 cyclists in each region aged over 60 yrs. In contrast, there are ten times that number in East England (6,200) and the South East (6,900).

The average age by gender is shown below for each region.

England & WalesNorth EastNorth WestYorkshireEast MidlandsWest MidlandsEast EnglandLondonSouth EastSouth WestWales
Men36.737.236.936.736.836.837.336.236.636.636.4
Women40.540.141.240.440.741.341.936.940.940.338.6

Note: No data is available for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Travel to Work by Distance

If we look at the average commute, for all modes of transport, it is 12.3km (7.7 miles). Understandably, it is lower for those using a bicycle at 6.3km (3.9 miles).

The regional spread is quite narrow, with the shortest distance travelled on a bicycle being in East England (5.7km) and the longest in Wales (7.2km) and London (8.2km).

England & WalesNorth EastNorth WestYorks.East MidlandsWest MidlandsEast EnglandLondonSouth EastSouth WestWales
All Transport12.310.611.011.111.111.312.416.112.710.911.3
Bicycle6.36.66.36.05.96.25.78.25.96.17.2

Note: Distances are in kilometres.

More than half of all commutes (58%) are less than 10km (6.3 miles), whereas on a bicycle, this is the vast majority of us (91%).

At the other end of the scale, 12% of all commutes are over 20km (12.5 miles), with a rather energetic 18,000 (2.8%) of us doing it on a bicycle. In fact, there are just shy of 7,000 people commuting more than 60km (37.5 miles) on a bicycle, with more than one-third of these being in London and the South East.

The proportion of commutes by bicycle are shown below by distance for each region.

England & WalesNorth EastNorth WestYorks.East MidlandsWest MidlandsEast EnglandLondonSouth EastSouth WestWales
Less than 2km43%36%39%44%47%43%51%23%48%47%42%
2km to 5km35%39%37%37%35%37%33%35%34%33%33%
5km to 10km13%16%15%12%11%12%8%28%11%11%14%
10km to 20km4%6%5%4%4%4%3%8%3%4%5%
20km to 30km1%1%1%1%1%1%1%1%1%1%1%
30km to 40km0.4%0.4%0.3%0.6%0.4%0.3%0.5%0.2%0.4%0.4%0.6%
40km to 60km0.4%0.3%0.3%0.4%0.4%0.3%0.5%0.2%0.3%0.5%0.5%
Over 60km1.1%0.9%0.8%0.8%0.8%1.1%0.9%1.4%1.1%1.2%1.6%
Total100%100%100%100%100%100%100%100%100%100%100%

Note: No data is available for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Travel to Work by Area

Whilst we have been looking at data from regions so far, it is worth digging a little deeper to view the results by local area. For example, the Area with the most cyclists is Cambridgeshire (25,000) which proves the cliche of University Cities being full of cyclists. And as if to reiterate the point, Oxfordshire is in third place.

Top 10 by Number of Cyclists

  1. Cambridgeshire (25,000)
  2. Hampshire (22,100)
  3. Oxfordshire (20,700)
  4. Norfolk (18,700)
  5. Lincolnshire (15,800)
  6. Essex (15,700)
  7. Suffolk (15,500)
  8. Lancashire (12,300)
  9. West Sussex (12,200)
  10. Kent (12,200)

However, if we look at cyclists at a percentage of total commuters, the picture looks very different.

Top 10 by Ratio of Cyclists

  1. Isles of Scilly (12%)
  2. York (12%)
  3. Hull(11.7%)
  4. Cambridgeshire(9.1%)
  5. Peterborough(7.7%)
  6. NE Lincolnshire (7.7%)
  7. Portsmouth (7.1%)
  8. Oxfordshire (6.7%)
  9. Hackney (6.2%)
  10. North Lincolnshire (5.6%)

It’s worth looking at this from the other end of the spectrum. Unfortunately, too many of the list feature Areas in Wales, which we suspect is less a reflection on the population numbers in the area, but more to do with the high levels of unemployment. Having said that, these Welsh areas also feature in the bottom 10 by ratio of total commuters, which is most likely a reflection on the beautiful, but steep, Welsh valleys.

Bottom 10 by Number of Cyclists

  1. City of London (74)
  2. Merthyr Tydfil (113)
  3. Blaenau Gwent (143)
  4. Isles of Scilly (152)
  5. Ceredigion (312)
  6. Pembrokeshire (361)
  7. Torfaen (380)
  8. Rhondda (444)
  9. Anglesey (448)
  10. Caerphilly (465)

Bottom 10 by Ratio of Cyclists

  1. Rhondda (0.5%)
  2. Merthyr Tydfil (0.6%)
  3. Blaenau Gwent (0.6%)
  4. Caerphilly (0.7%)
  5. Bradford (0.8%)
  6. Pembrokeshire (0.8%)
  7. Calderdale (0.8%)
  8. Barnsley (0.8%)
  9. Harrow (0.9%)
  10. Havering (0.9%)

About Bikes.org.uk

The Bikes.org.uk website is run by a small group of dedicated bikers who are passionate about bikes. Our aim is to provide news, reviews and info to as many people as will listen on a wide range of bike related topics across the full range of bikes, including mountain bikes, road bikes, triathlon bikes, hybrid bikes, bmx bikes, motorbikes, quad bikes and every other type of bike.

Data Source: Census 2001 for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
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