Some news that may or may not excite you -
British Cycling and Sky are thrilled to announce that 1 million more people are now cycling regularly than were in 2008.
Obviously more people cycling is good news; British Cycling are providing plenty of opportunities for people to experience – albeit intermittently – pleasant conditions for cycling, which should be applauded, as far as it goes.
But how exactly has this headline figure of ‘a million more cyclists’ been arrived at?
The independent annual survey was conducted by GFK NOP and looked at people’s current cycling behaviour versus their riding in the previous year. The survey measured cycling behaviour over a 12 month period and asked about the number of times a person cycled. A ‘regular cyclist’ is a cyclist who has cycled at least 12 times in the past year.
Of course the definition of ‘regular’ is open to question, but using a bike just 12 times a year doesn’t strike me as being particularly ‘regular’, at least if we are taking the word to mean ‘happening frequently’, rather than just ‘at consistent intervals’. (If I walked to the shops just twelve times a year, and drove on every other occasion, I doubt you would say I was a ‘regular’ walker.)
The story gets shakier still -
Since 2009, we have influenced one million more people to cycle at least 12 times a year. Some of these people will not have cycled before and will be new cyclists, while others are occasional or lapsed cyclists who have increased their cycling frequency.
In other words, a proportion of these ‘new’ cyclists are people who were already ‘occasionally’ cycling. The exact proportion isn’t given, and nor is a definition of ‘occasional’; the research, or at least what little of it has been released, is unhelpfully vague.
At a reasonable guess, out of this quoted figure of a million, many hundreds of thousands of people who were already cycling perhaps 5-10 times a year are now cycling 12 or more times a year. These ‘occasional’ cyclists are now magically transformed into a million new ‘regular’ cyclists, by means of a slight increase in the number of times they hop on a bike every year.
We might even suppose that a very high proportion of these million new ‘regular’ cyclists are actually people who were cycling occasionally already (that is, less than 12 times a year), and have merely used a bicycle a handful more times.
This is hardly secure evidence of any transformation in the amount of cycling in Britain, and is probably best dismissed as some clever marketing, to be added to the collection of premature and misjudged announcements of a ‘boom’ in cycling.
Graph by Joe Dunckley