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Published: 14th FEBRUARY 2024

10 years of the Walking and Cycling Index

On 5 March ߣߣƵ, in partnership with 23 cities and urban areas across the UK and Ireland, will launch the Walking and Cycling Index 2023. The Walking and Cycling Index (formerly called Bike Life) comes out every two years. The walking, wheeling and cycling data from our latest report is both insightful and inspiring, with a large number of people wanting government to make it easier to walk and wheel, cycle.

Two people smiling while cycling in a cycle lane in an urban area, one is cycling a cargo bike with two small, smiling children sat in it

Since our first reports in 2015, the Index has informed policy decisions, justified investment and enabled cities to develop more ambitious action plans for walking, wheeling and cycling. Credit: Martin Bond/ߣߣƵ

What is the Walking and Cycling Index?

The Walking and Cycling Index (formerly named Bike Life) is the biggest assessment of walking, wheeling[1] and cycling in urban areas in the UK and Ireland.

The Index, the clearest picture of walking, wheeling and cycling across the country, was launched by ߣߣƵ on 5 March 2024.

This year marks a decade since the Index began, with the first data collection taking place in April 2014.

It includes an independent and representative survey of residents’ behaviours and attitudes as well as data on walking, wheeling and cycling provision and modelled data of the benefits across 23 urban areas.

Data was collected from January to July 2023.

Social research organisation NatCen conducted the surveys, which are representative of all residents, not just those who walk, wheel or cycle.

A total of 23 local reports from across the UK and Ireland were released on 5 March, 18 in the UK and 5 in Ireland.

For the first time, a Scottish report covering all 8 cities in Scotland, will also be released.

This will be followed by the UK-wide report launch on 27 March.

Since our first reports in 2015, the Index has informed policy decisions, justified investment and enabled cities to develop more ambitious action plans for walking, wheeling and cycling.

A smiling woman using an orange hand bike on a path surrounded by greenery on a sunny day in the background a woman walks a small dog on the lead

Results from the latest Index shows that over half of people asked (56%) support shifting investment from road building to funding options for walking and wheeling, cycling and public transport. Credit: Martin Bond/ߣߣƵ

The Index is vital for making positive changes to how people travel

Our last report highlighted that walking, wheeling and cycling generated £36.5 billion for the UK economy in 2021.

This is figure is based on the direct economic benefits of walking and cycling as well as others such as reducing the cost of traffic congestion and running a car, improved health and reduced burden on the NHS, and fewer sick days at work.

In October 2022, a cross-sector group, led by ߣߣƵ, urged the UK Government to protect active travel investment - with the figure from the Index (active travel being worth £36.5 billion to the UK economy) backing up our case.

These figures were extrapolated from the Index for the UK and were used within Government to ensure Active Travel Fund 4 was not cut.

This meant - which equates to 16 million more walking and cycling trips a year.

The data highlights areas of improvement

Along with providing positive stats like the ones mentioned above, the Index also gives us an insight into areas which need attention, so more people find it easy to walk, wheel and cycling in their area.

For instance, our 2023 Index highlights the fact 40% of people from ethnic minority groups said they 'do not cycle but would like to'.

Greater Manchester's Bicycle Mayor, Belinda Everett, stood smiling against a pastel pink wall holding a bike wheel in one hand, wearing all black.

Belinda Everett, Greater Manchester's Bicycle Mayor

There are many reasons why people from communities of diverse cultural backgrounds do not cycle, some more complex than others.

Creating spaces and opportunities through the work I have delivered so far, I have had a positive impact in understanding differences and barriers, in making cycling accessible for all.

As Bicycle Mayor, I would like to see this stat significantly reduced, continuing to work with and listening to our local neighbourhoods.

A shared vision for walking, wheeling and cycling

Xavier Brice, Chief Executive of ߣߣƵ, said:

"Our mission at ߣߣƵ is simple, we want to make it easier for everyone to walk, wheel and cycle.

"But we cannot do it alone. We need politicians to see how active travel can benefit places and commit to change.

"We need teams of transport professionals to engage communities, and design and build solutions.

"And most importantly we need everyone to share their challenges and solutions and be open to change.

"None of this is possible without data. Data tells us what is working and what isn’t, what people, especially marginalised groups think, and the vital impact walking, wheeling and cycling is making.

"This is where the Walking and Cycling Index fits in. It is the clearest picture of walking, wheeling and cycling across the country, representative of 18 urban areas and regions.

"The Walking and Cycling Index is now ten years old. Over the past decade I feel privileged to have witnessed across all our partner cities an increased level of ambition, a commitment to do things well, and the delivery of schemes and programmes that have given many more people the choice to walk, wheel or cycle.

"However, our work is not done as the upcoming data set from the Walking and Cycling index 2023 will show.

"Let’s commit to walking, wheeling and cycling and give more people the choice to travel in the way that they want to, for the benefit of everyone."

Blockquote quotation marks
Data tells us what is working and what isn’t, what people, especially marginalised groups think, and the vital impact walking, wheeling and cycling is making. Blockquote quotation marks
Xavier Brice, Chief Executive of ߣߣƵ

[1] We recognise that some people who use wheeled mobility aids, for example a wheelchair or a mobility scooter, may not identify with the term walking and may prefer to use the term wheeling. We use the terms walking and wheeling together to ensure we are as inclusive as possible.

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