Statement: Cycling Numbers Decline

Since 2014 cycling rates in ‘cycling city‘ have been declining. A recent council report showed that since 2014 12,000 less people are cycling in the city. The report also shows that during lockdown cycling levels dropped to 84% of 2019 levels. A drop made all the more dramatic when compared to figures in the rest of the UK which saw an increase of 46%.

At the council’s executive meeting at the end of August we made a statement to ask that the fall investigate properly. You can read the statement in full or watch a recording of the proceedings below.

The campaign would like to draw the Executive’s attention to two items. The first is paragraph 21 on page 5 of Annex 2 of Item 8, the 2021/22 Finance and Performance Monitor 1. We have serious questions about the data that is presented here. Firstly officers claim that it is remarkable that cycling in York fell to 84% of 2019 levels during 2020. We agree that it is remarkable to see such a dramatic fall, when DfT statistics show that the rest of the UK saw cycling levels increased by an average of 45.7% above 2019 levels. Rather than patting themselves on the back, we believe that officers should be asking themselves why York didn’t experience the huge rise in leisure cycling seen elsewhere.

Officers then go on to exclude York’s cycling 2020 data and instead trumpet an 8% increase in cycling levels between 2010 and 2019. As Exec members probably recall, the cycling data which was presented in June, revealed that cycling in York has fallen year on year since 2014. The statement in today’s report is a desperate attempt to pull some good news out of these damning statistics. The plot of the cycling data shows a clear upward trend (28%) in cycling until 2014 (when 40,000 people cycled frequently) and clear drop thereafter. Worse, the number of recorded collisions over the latter period has been on average 25% higher than in 2009. Meanwhile, York’s population has increased by around 8% and motor vehicle traffic by 23% over the same time period. Is an 8% increase in cycling really something to celebrate? We believe that officers should be asking why the city has not been able to retain the cyclists it gained up until 2014. Why have nearly 12,000 people given up cycling since 2014, despite York’s growing population? This awful performance needs to be acknowledged so it can be addressed.

The second item we’d like to draw your attention to is the Equalities Impact Assessment for the ongoing extension of city centre footstreets – Annex C of item 5.

Paragraph 3.16 asks whether the extended footstreets proposal will enhance the use of sustainable transport. The report’s author suggests that it will have a positive impact and is likely to effect how people travel to the city centre positively. However, absolutely no evidence is presented to back up this claim, suggesting that this is just the opinion of the author – hardly a robust Equality Impact Assessment.

The cycle campaign would like to counter this claim and suggest that instead the extended foostreets will likely have a negative impact on the use of sustainable travel.

Already cyclists are excluded from the majority of the city centre and by extending the no-cycle zone even further cyclists are pushed out onto busy and dangerous roads, such as the inner ring road. In particular the loss of Castlegate as a cycle-street is being keenly felt; this was one of the last remaining ways to safely reach the city centre by cycle.

The extended city centre footstreets zone presents a huge barrier to cyclists. It is virtually impossible to cycle directly and safely from one side of the city to the other, therby discouraging people from using active travel for mid-distance journeys (3km or more) – the very journeys that are best done by cycle. Instead, residents and tourists who wish to travel from one side of the city to the other are more likely to drive.

We ask the Exec to scrutinise this Equalities Impact Assessment and ask officers to provide robust evidence to back up their claims.

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