Bristol Walking and Cycling Index 2021 – highlights

In case you needed any convincing of the scale of both the challenge and opportunity for cycling in Bristol, Sustrans have released their forth Bike Life report for 2021, now renamed Walking and Cycling Index 2021.

This follows on from the 20192017 and 2015 reports and highlights many of the barriers to cycling in Bristol but also some of the huge opportunities and potential in the city:

  • The data in this Area report comes from 2021 and includes local walking and cycling data, modelling and an independent survey of 1,292 residents aged 16 or above in Bristol
  • The report only covers the Bristol Council area and so only about 2/3 of the city. 
  • It’s good to see the use of the term ‘wheeling’ considered with walking, to include the use of mobility aids and pushchairs.
  • 57% of residents walk at least five days a week, while 28% cycle at least once a week. Astonishingly, despite the pandemic these are exactly the same proportions as in 2019.
  • Those driving 5 or more days a week have fallen by about a third (to 25%), but so have the numbers cycling 5 or more days a week, reflecting reduction in commuting. For context the report states that “We need to reduce vehicle mileage across the city by up to 40% on pre-pandemic levels by 2030 to reach net-zero carbon emissions”
  • Safety, including road safety and personal safety, remains the single largest barrier to cycling. Encouragingly, perceptions of cycling safety have improved since 2019.
  • The city continues to benefit by about £1 from each mile cycled instead of driven (94p in 2021, £1.04 in 2019). Yes, there is a sound basis for feelings of quiet self-righteousness from those cycling.
  • There are only 2 permanent School Streets schemes in Bristol, others are only trials.
  • There have been 3 more miles of traffic-free cycle routes away from the road added since 2019, up to 52 miles. But no change to the 49 miles of cycle tracks physically separated from traffic and pedestrians.

This is the forth report from Bristol, produced in partnership with Bristol City Council. The Forward from Mayor Marvin Rees, and Don Alexander, Cabinet member for Transport claims “We have taken bold and decisive action”. This means “Installing new protected cycle routes, pedestrianising the historic core of the city, removing through-traffic from the central area and opening up roads to pedestrians and people who cycle by closing them to motor traffic at the start and end of the school day, via the Bristol School Streets project”.  But the hopelessly low ambition becomes clear with a target of 2050 before we might get “transport services that are efficient, sustainable and inclusive”, condemning a generation of children to further tinkering around the edges.

More details on all Bike Life reports can be found at

The report includes one rather ironic quote from a commuter who appreciates the now threatened Whiteladies Road Road cycle lane.