Bike Life – Taking the pulse of bike life in Bristol

The Bike Life 2015 Report for Bristol is out (Bike-Life-Bristol-2015). Inspired by the Copenhagen Bicycle Account, this is an assessment of cycling development including cycling conditions, new initiatives and satisfaction with various aspects of cycling.

Overall this is an interesting and useful report which will be of great value in making the case for cycling improvements. It’s no surprise that the lack of safe and comfortable cycle routes is the main thing that stops more people riding. When asked what measures will help them cycle more, people say they want real Space for Cycling – protected lanes and traffic-free routes. It appears they weren’t asked about 20mph and slower speeds but we know these are very popular and already cover 80% of Bristol streets.

Bristol people also have a very positive view of cycling with nearly three quarters already thinking positively about people riding bikes. There is a big mandate for change across the city. The survey of 1,100 also confirmed strong support for more investment (70%).

We are particularly pleased to see that it’s now been calculated how much cycling is worth to Bristol. For every mile cycled instead of driven there’s a benefit of 62p in savings to the individual and local economy (wipe that annoying smug look off your face, just feel it inside). This works out at over £26 million every year at current levels of cycling. Then there’s a further £28.5 of benefits to health in the city, every year.

The report sets a baseline against which future progress will be judged. This is one of the weaknesses of the report in that it summarises the status of over 20 years of work without setting out what has changed recently, or what specifically is planned to enable the declared targets to be reached. A good deal of the monitoring information was already available in more comprehensive forms, as we summarised in April 2015 Cycling Trends in Bristol.

For example the target is to spend £16 per head of population (in line with our Bristol Cycling Manifesto) but in 2014/15 this was only £14.62, almost entirely due to a range of government funds (Cycle Ambition Fund, Local Sustainable Transport Fund, Cycle Safety Grant). Real political determination and leadership will be needed as current indications are that cycling is “off the agenda” in the coming 5 year spending review and is likely to lose out to road building and rail upgrade projects.

Key facts for Bristol at a glance:

  • 18 million bike trips in Bristol in a year
  • 31% of people ride a bike once a month or more
  • 8 in 10 people support increasing the safety of cycling – more than any other way of getting around the city
  • 70% of people want to see more spent on cycling
  • £28.5 million is the benefit to health in the city, in a single year, from the current level of people riding bikes
  • 11,755 tonnes of CO2 saved by people making trips by riding a bike rather than driving – equivalent to the annual emissions of around 4,629 cars
  • 67p per mile is the saving to individuals and to the local economy, for every mile biked instead of driven – which works out at over £26 million a year for Bristol at current levels of cycling

There are also Bike Life reports for Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Greater Manchester and Newcastle. You can compare the cities and find out more details on the report findings and methodology at