Rachel Aldred on behalf of the Propensity to Cycle Tool team
Thursday 13 April 2017 08.30 BST
Chances are you live in a place where less than one in 20 commuters regularly cycle to work. Sometimes people assume this is because England is too hilly, or that most home-to-work distances are too far to cycle. Hilliness and distance do matter. However, new research has found that this is only part of the story. With the right cycling conditions, cycling levels could be much higher than they are now.
The Propensity to Cycle Tool (PCT) is an open source tool and research project that maps ‘cycling potential’ at area and route level, helping local government to plan cycle networks. Longer or hillier trips are less likely to be cycled, and the tool uses this information to calculate commuter cycling take-up under different scenarios.
The freely available PCT visualises the cycling potential of four possible cycling futures, also highlighting current cycling levels based on census data (from the 2011 census and Cyclestreets journey planner).
The Government Target scenario assumes a doubling of cycle commuting nationally – the Department for Transport’s current aim. The tool identifies where those extra trips might take place, based on how long and hilly commutes are in each area.
Gender Equality calculates how cycling levels would change if women were as likely as men to cycle every commute between any two locations.
The Go Dutch and Ebikes scenarios are more ambitious. Go Dutch shows what would happen if we reached average Dutch commuter cycling rates in England, accounting for differences in trip distances and hilliness between the two countries. Ebikes adds to Go Dutch the potential for mass electric bike ownership to facilitate longer and hillier trips, based on data about their use in the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Under the Go Dutch scenario, nearly one in five people across England would cycle to work – around a sixfold increase. Under Ebikes, it’s more than one in four. Distance and hilliness aren’t the main barriers stopping people cycling to work in England, although some areas (such as Cornwall and Devon) may need an extra electric bike boost as well as better infrastructure and policy support to reach Dutch levels of cycling.