Bikes on a bike rack

Where is cycling to work most common?

Each year for #cycletoworkday we take a look at cycling statistics across the country and try to map commuter data and find interesting trends. This is mainly because we at Beacon Dodsworth are either a little bit obsessed about cycling, or we tend to worry about the environment.

Looking past the usual suspects

Most cycling commute analysis comes to the same conclusions: Oxford and Cambridge have the highest percentage of cycle commuters. Our own home town of York usually comes in at a respectable 14%. At the other extreme, the countryside normally looks terrible, with a very low percentage of cycle commuters. As you would expect, cycling is more prevalent in urban areas, where a larger proportion of the population live closer to their place of employment and tend to be supported by dedicated cycling infrastructure. All this general analysis really underlines is those urban areas that don’t show up as cycling oases should work harder to encourage cycling.

How far away do you work?

We wanted to take a more well-rounded look at the problem, in a way that wouldn’t discriminate against rural areas or more sprawling cities. To start with, we looked at the 2011 census to see what average commute distances were in any given postcode sector. The results surprised us, with an average commute across England of 16km - too far for most people to cycle, even if they were so inclined, and supported by perfect health and a good cycle network. We mapped this in our Prospex GIS to show trends across England. In most cases it shows the tiers of the commuter belt around major cities, but the borders, mid Wales, south east and west have very high average commute distances.

Average commute distance by postcode sector.

Cycling analysis where cycling is actually possible

To come up with a more informed analysis of cycle trends, we went back to the data and then looked at the percentage of cycle commuters out of those who travel less than 10km to work. The results seem to remove the urban bias to some extent and thankfully reduce the amount of red on the map. The map also shows some interesting areas of cycling virtue: East Anglia and the east coast, Berkshire, Gloucestershire and Hampshire.

These results also hint at something that population data won’t help with - topography. A large amount of the areas with low cycling penetration are in the extreme north, north west or other areas with big flipping hills. So let’s not be too quick to judge those areas in red.

With the census being the main source of population and lifestyle data and data from Census 2021 being processed, it will be fascinating to see what has changed in commuting patterns over the last 10 years and if the situation has improved. In the meantime, keep pedalling!


Heat map showing cyclists as a percentage of all commuters.


Choropleth map showing percentage of cyclists for journeys of less than 10km

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