In 2011, having just completed the 2011 Census, completed their first Travel to Work by Bike Report. This first report was based on the 2001 Census as the 2011 data was not available at the time. Now, two years later, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have started to release data from the 2011 Census.

In this report, we take a look at UK Cycling habits with regard to commuting and how this compares to other forms of transport. The report uses data from the ONS as provided by the Nomis website and where available will show data by Gender, Region and Area, all of which are defined on the Nomis website (

Data is released in stages by the ONS and as such, we have had to focus on England and Wales for this report. We do not wish to alienate the good people of Scotland, Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK but we don’t have data for those areas. We will of course update the report once available.

Whilst data is available from 1991 and 1981, it is based on a 10 percent sample size. To enable comparisons to be made with data from 2011 and 2001, we have simply multiplied the data from the earlier years by a factor of ten. This gives a guide and is clearly not scientifically robust.

We look at which Areas within the United Kingdom are popular for cyclists and which are less so. Comparisons are made between Cyclists and Motorcyclists, and Cars versus Public Transport. As a consequence, there are some assumptions made on Eco-Friendly Regions, among other theories but we’ll come on to those in due course.

The source data is attached to this report (at the bottom of the page) for readers to download but no liability can be accepted for those that do so. We would also ask that you respect the Intellect Property and Copyright of the website, it’s Parent Company and that of the Office for National Statistics and ultimately that of the Crown.

We start this report with our findings, this can either be to whet your appetite or to avoid you getting bored, you choose! As you read through this report, please bear in mind that we are cyclists, not statisticians, politicians or analysts. We have written this report to look at how cyclists fit into the commuting community across the UK. We present this report as data, with some commentary but do not intend there to be any political slant. We are in tough economical times and some of the data suggests commuters are finding it challenging.

Report Highlights

  • The number who travel to work in England and Wales has surpassed 25 million for the first time.
  • This is a staggering 12,000 million commutes per year (allowing for holidays).
  • Since 2001, the number of people who travel to work has risen by +3.6m (+17%).
  • Over the past 30 yrs, the number of commuters has increased by +5.1m (+25%).
  • The proportion of the population who travel to work has increased to 44.7%, (2001: 41.0%).
  • London: There are +25% more commuters in London than 10 years ago.
  • South East: There are 4 million commuters in the South East, half a million more than 10 years ago.
  • North West: Above 3 million commuters for the first time.
  • Yorkshire: Above 2 million for the first time.
  • East Midlands: Above 2 million for the first time.
  • 9 out of the Top 10 growth districts over the past ten years are in the London Region.

There are more people who travel to work in London and the South East (7.8m) as the entire Regions of the North East, Yorkshire and North West combined (6.5m).

Evolution of Commuting Habits

Besides looking at the 2011 Census, we thought it would be interesting to compare how habits have changed across the past few Censuses, and so we include data from each of the past four Census periods; 2011, 2001, 1991, 1981. This also gives us the opportunity to see how things have changed from more affluent times to today’s austere period.

To put the data in context, from both a volume and growth perspective, it is worth noting the total population data for each of the periods under scrutiny. The following are the mid-point Population Estimates for England and Wales (source: Nomis), along with the number of people recognised in the Census as travelling to a place of work.

2011 2001 1991* 1981*
Population Estimate 56.2m 52.4m 50.7m 49.6m
Travel to Work (Commuters) 25.1m 21.5m 20.3m 20.0m
Commuters as % of Population 44.7% 41.0% 40.0% 40.3%

The number who travel to work in England and Wales has surpassed 25 million for the first time. This is a staggering 12,000 million commutes per year (allowing for holidays).

The total population of England and Wales has increased by +6.6m (+13%) in the past 30 years. In comparison, the number of people who travel to work (excludes those who do not work or work from home) has increased by +5.1m (+25.5%). Over the past ten years (2011 vs 2001);

  • The number of people who travel to work, has risen by +3.6m (+17%).
  • The rise in commuters (+17%) is greater than the rise in the population (+7%).
  • The proportion of the population who travel to work has increased to 44.7%

Perhaps the most noticeable factor is the proportion of people commuting in England and Wales has risen to 44.7% of the population. So not only are there more of us, there are also more of us commuting to work and at a higher proportion of the total population. This is perhaps a reflection on the current economic climate and the fact that more of us need to work.

Ten years ago, this ratio was 41.0%. So in these times of economic challenges, an additional 3.7% of the population travel to work compared to 2001. This does not of course mean more of us are working, simply that more of us travel to work. The graph below this chart shows how this has affected each Region across England and Wales (click on the graph to enlarge it).

10 Year Change Ratio of Commuters
  1. Wales +5.3%
  2. North East +5.2%
  3. London +4.9%
  4. North West +4.5%
  5. South West +3.7%
  6. Yorkshire +3.6%
  7. East Midlands +3.3%
  8. East England +2.6%
  9. South East +2.3%
  10. West Midlands +1.1%
  1. London 46.3%
  2. South East 46.0%
  3. East England 45.9%
  4. East Midlands 44.9%
  5. South West 44.9%
  6. Yorkshire 43.8%
  7. North West 43.7%
  8. West Midlands 43.1%
  9. North East 42.8%
  10. Wales 42.1%

It is perhaps no surprise that London and the South East have the highest proportion of people who travel to work but it was a surprise to see that the East of England and East Midlands followed closely. The East Midlands however is in contrast with the West Midlands which finds itself towards the lower part of the list, just above those at the bottom, North East and Wales. The latter may be a reflection on the unemployment in those areas but we’ll leave that for other commentators.

Whilst Wales and the North East have the lowest proportion of the population who commute, they are at the top of the growth list, with both having more than an additional 5% points of the population commuting in 2011 compared to 2001. Staggeringly, not only does London have the highest ratio of commuters, it has grown by an additional 4.9% of the regions population. The North West has also seen more of it’s population on the commuting journey each day. However, the West Midlands has neither seen growth or has a particular high ratio of commuters, pauses for others to comment…

Travel to Work by Region

2011 2001 1991* 1981*
England and Wales 25,104,000 21,457,000 20,336,000 20,018,000
England 23,813,000 20,386,000 19,319,000 19,021,000
Wales 1,290,000 1,071,000 1,018,000 997,000
North East 1,110,000 954,000 942,000 1,018,000
North West 3,085,000 2,658,000 2,633,000 2,750,000
Yorkshire 2,317,000 1,999,000 1,918,000 1,932,000
East Midlands 2,038,000 1,744,000 1,644,000 1,584,000
West Midlands 2,416,000 2,216,000 2,112,000 2,093,000
East England 2,688,000 2,336,000 2,221,000 2,027,000
London 3,796,000 3,033,000 2,704,000 2,983,000
South East 3,981,000 3,503,000 3,267,000 2,976,000
South West 2,382,000 2,035,000 1,870,000 1,659,000

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Regions with the largest number of people travelling to work, are London and the South East. Away from this area, the greatest number of commuters remain in the North West Region, which for the first time, has surpassed 3 million people. Other Regions also have broken new records, at 2.3m Yorkshire has broken the two million threshold for the first time, as has the East Midlands. The largest Region is the South East and commuters in this region are almost through the 4 million mark after a +14% rise in numbers since 2001.

2011 vs 2001 2011 vs 1981
Number % Change Number % Change
England and Wales +3,646,000 +17.0% +5,086,000 +25.4%
England +3,427,000 +16.8% +4,792,000 +25.2%
Wales +220,000 +20.5% +294,000 +29.5%
North East +157,000 +16.4% +93,000 +9.1%
North West +427,000 +16.1% +334,000 +12.2%
Yorkshire +318,000 +15.9% +385,000 +19.9%
East Midlands +293,000 +16.8% +454,000 +28.7%
West Midlands +290,000 +13.6% +322,000 +15.4%
East England +352,000 +15.1% +661,000 +32.6%
London +763,000 +25.2% +814,000 +27.3%
South East +479,000 +13.7% +1,005,000 +33.8%
South West +348,000 +17.1% +723,000 +43.6%

Travel to Work by County & City

We have already seen how commuter numbers vary between Regions but how does this look when viewed at County and City level? The data is too vast to shown in this webpage so we have attached a link to the end of this report for you to download the full dataset. Whilst every care is taken to ensure this file, and its contents, is secure, no liability can be accepted by us whatsoever.

Top 10 Commuters by County Bottom 10 Commuters by County
  1. Kent 647,000
  2. Essex 639,000
  3. Hampshire 623,000
  4. Surrey 530,000
  5. Hertfordshire 530,000
  6. Lancashire 520,000
  7. Staffordshire 391,000
  8. Norfolk 374,000
  9. West Sussex 368,000
  10. Nottinghamshire 357,000
  1. Gwynedd (Wales) 49,000
  2. Powys (Wales) 55,000
  3. Isle of Wight 55,000
  4. Herefordshire 82,000
  5. Northumberland 138,000
  6. Shropshire 138,000
  7. East Riding 149,000
  8. County Durham 218,000
  9. Wiltshire 222,000
  10. Cornwall 223,000

We know how large the numbers are in London and the South East regions so it is of no surprise to see so many surrounding Counties also feature in the Top 10 list. For those looking to escape the so-called rat race, you should look to move to Wales or the Welsh:English border, the North East of England coastline or the tranquil South West. But what of those wanting to remain in a City, yet escape the daily grind?

Top 10 Commuters by City Bottom 10 Commuters by City
  1. London 3,796,000
  2. Birmingham 409,000
  3. Leeds 341,000
  4. Sheffield 235,000
  5. Bradford 210,000
  6. Manchester 206,000
  7. Bristol 200,000
  8. Liverpool 191,000
  9. Croydon 165,000
  10. Cardiff 154,000
  1. City of London 4,000
  2. Lincoln 43,000
  3. Lichfield 46,000
  4. Worcester 48,000
  5. Chichester 48,000
  6. Carlisle 51,000
  7. Winchester 52,000
  8. Cambridge 56,000
  9. Gloucester 59,000
  10. Lancaster 59,000

London is our biggest City and thus it comes as no surprise that it finds itself at the top of the list. However, what may surprise some is that it is so big, that it is larger than the remaining top 10 Cities combined (3.8m v 2.1m).

The top 10 is dominated by five northern cities, three of which are in Yorkshire (Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford). England’s second largest City (Birmingham) comes second with the Welsh Capital in tenth place.

Whilst London heads the Top 10 list, it also finds itself featuring on the Bottom 10 list. The difference of course is London the Region vs the City of London, small population and thus a low number of commuters. This scenario is also true for the beautiful City of Lichfield, situated 16 miles north of Birmingham. Beautiful Cities is a theme that runs throughout the Bottom 10 list both from a physical nature and the low number of commuters, but don’t all rush at once or you may find yourselves on the Top 10 list next time!

And what of growth. The average growth in the number who travel to work, over the past ten years, is +17%, with London topping the list at +25%.

Top 10 % Change by
Local Authority
Bottom 10 % Change by
Local Authority
  1. Tower Hamlets +71%
  2. Newham +63%
  3. Manchester +55%
  4. Hackney +55%
  5. Southwark +42%
  6. Islington +38%
  7. Haringey +34%
  8. Greenwich +33%
  9. Lambeth +32%
  10. Brent +31%
  1. Wokingham +3%
  2. Stockport +5%
  3. Dudley +6%
  4. Bracknell Forest +7%
  5. Redcar & Cleveland +8%
  6. Worcestershire +9%
  7. Sefton +9%
  8. Oldham +9%
  9. Bath and North Somerset +9%
  10. Bury +9%

This must be a worrying time for Local Authorities in London as 9 out of the top 10 growth districts over the past ten years are in the London Region. Whilst this is good from an employment perspective, the demands on the necessary infrastructure are considerable when you have the challenges of +71% growth in Tower Hamlets, +63% in Newham and +55% in Hackney.

Manchester is the one place outside of London and at +55% growth over the past ten years is the third highest. One way the authorities in Manchester are seeking to manage this is the expansion of the Metrolink tram service. The Manchester Metrolink transported 21 million people in 2011 and is already 43 miles long. However, the future service will expand even further and reaches out to some of the towns on our Bottom 10 growth list (Stockport, Oldham, Bury), thus potentially spreading both the burden and improving the prospects of these outlying districts.

In Part II, we look at Travel to Work by Method and examine how this has changed in recent years. We also compare how our attitude to eco-friendly forms of transport has developed. In Part III, we become a little more parochial and focus exclusively on cycling, it’s place in commuting and how it’s changed over the past 30 years.

We welcome your feedback and comments, either via the Facebook comments box or webpage comment form below.


Data Source: 2011 Census data from Nomis
Copyright: Office for National Statistics © Crown Copyright 2013

Data Source: 2011 Census: Quick Statistics for local authorities in England and Wales
Copyright: Office for National Statistics © Crown Copyright 2013

Travel to Work Report 2013

Article on the various methods of travel to work.

An in-depth look at the methods commuters use to travel to work by Mark Taylor on March 23, 2013

In this report, we take a look at UK Cycling habits with regard to commuting and how this compares to other forms of transport. is a cycling organization run by a group of dedicated cyclists. We publish in-depth articles on a wide range of cycling topics including road bike and mountain bike reviews, cycling news & charity events. In addition, we provide a price comparison tool to compare prices on bikes from all the leading UK bike shops.
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