Cycling in UK

Contrary to popular belief, cycling is still a popular mode of transportation and choice of recreation in the UK. It is the sixth most popular vehicle for Britons (1%), just slightly ahead of motorcycles (0.9%). Approximately 16 million, or 32%, of adults over the age of 18 cycle at least once every month across the 14,000 miles National Cycle Network (NCN) - and the figure jumps to 27.9 million if we include people aged 16 and above.

These numbers obviously pale in comparison to the staggering number of cyclists in China (430 million, at last count) and the penetration usage rate in Netherlands (the cycling capital of Europe) and Scandinavian countries, but the figure is nonetheless still respectable when compared to other developed nations around the world. Interestingly, the two occupation groups with the highest level of bicycle usages in UK are students and managers/professionals!

The majority of cycle traffic takes place on urban minor roads (55%), followed by rural minor roads, urban A roads, and rural A Roads at 28%, 14% and 3% respectively. Geographically, Cambridge and Oxford have the highest frequency and density of bicycle usage in the country - most certainly due to the high student population.

Approximately 3.5 million bicycles were sold in the UK annually, with children's and mountain bikes dominating the market with a 30% share each. However, only 2% (70,000) of the bikes are manufactured domestically, and a vast majority are imported from Asia. Economically, the industry generates in excess of £3 billion to the economy, and indirectly employs about 25,000 people in sales, distribution and NCN maintenance. Data from the embryonic leisure cycle tourism industry is still a little patchy, but analysts believe that the sector brings in another few hundred million pounds. The government's Cycle to Work tax Scheme for employers, a part of the Green Transport Initiative, also contributes an additional £100 million in ancillary economic benefits to the economy annually.

Cyclists using public roads on the British Isles are governed by rules 59 to 82 of the Highway Code in England, Wales and Scotland, and rules 59 to 82 of the Highway Code for Northern Ireland in NI. However, before even thinking about getting on the road, cyclists must ensure compliance of the following three basic criteria:

Helmets, fluorescent clothing and strips, and use of cycle lanes are all not compulsory. Nevertheless, there are compelling evidence suggesting that adherence to all three requirements can increase the level of safety for cyclists.