Mapping London's Cyclists - Where do they live?

Bruce Lynn from Southwark Cyclists looks at some recent research from Sports England into the cycling habits of Londoners


Ever wondered where all the cyclists live in London? Or which borough has the most cyclists? Well the latest Sport England survey provides some answers.

Most cycling numbers in London are calculated by head-counts taken along various roads. This is important — it enables the survey team to estimate how many miles are cycled and to compare cycling with other modes of transport (‘modal share’). However, what these figures do not tell you is where cyclists live. This information is available, but is rather tucked away in the mass of data collected as part of Sport England’s Active People surveys.

This rolling survey is carried out for Sport England by Ipsos MORI and has been going since 2005. Every year 500 people are randomly telephoned in each local authority area in England. They are asked if in the last four weeks they have, on at least one day, cycled for 30 minutes or more. If the answer is yes, they are asked if they cycled on at least 11 days, or for 12 or more days.

Map 1 shows the results for this last question — ie the proportion of the adult (16 and over) population who said they cycled on at least 12 days in the last four weeks (three or more days per week on average). Clearly the inner boroughs dominate, presumably reflecting the popularity of cycle commuting. The out-and out winner is Hackney where 7% said they biked for at least 30 minutes at least three times a week. Remember this is a percentage of the entire adult population, young and old, male and female.

Map 2 shows the percentage doing 1 to 11 rides per four weeks. Here there is no clear pattern. But Richmond is the runaway leader with 17% of adults cycling 1 to 11 times a month (and another 5% more than 12 times). Perhaps this reflects the proximity of Richmond Park and easy access to a rather nice stretch of the Thames Path.

Spot the differences
Perhaps the most striking aspect of this data is the huge differences between boroughs. For regular cycling, 3+ days per week, Hackney has 7% but neighbouring Tower Hamlets only 3%, with barely 1% in Bexley. And for the second criterion, maybe mostly recreational weekend cycling, why do Harrow and Newham have less than 5% cycling at this level, compared with 3-4 times as many in Kingston and Richmond?

Looking into the reasons for these large differences may give useful clues about how to best promote cycling.

This article first appeared in the Feb-Mar 2013 issue of London Cyclist magazine, delivered free to LCC members every two months