30 March 2010

Cambridge terrible for cycling, says survey

More 'best cycle-city' survey amusement comes to me from John Kitchiner, editor of LCC's London Cyclist. It follows on from my post about Cycling Plus's verdict that Bristol is the UK's top town for bikes.

John's been sent a press release from flatshare company EasyRoommate.co.uk. According to their research - evidently conducted with the same depth and due diligence as my dad employed when contemplating foreign food - the most bike-friendly city in Britain is...


(The Mersey Ferry, pics, is one of the chapters in my 50 Quirky Bike Rides book.)

And the worst two are... London and Cambridge!

You don't need to be the Guardian's bad-science guru Ben Goldacre (who's also a Real Cyclist) to see the flaws in the reasoning. One of their negative factors is the proportion of cyclists among casualties. That'll naturally be higher in places with a high incidence of cycling, such as Cambridge or Oxford. By that score, Los Angeles probably beats Groningen, and motorways are the safest place for cyclists, because you never get any bike casualties there.

Now, it's only a pretend survey in a press release, but it does actually raise a valid point about cycle storage (another reason London fares badly).

I've met a couple of central London cyclists recently who have Bromptons as their everyday machine - not for taking on the train or bus, but simply because there's no space to put a standard bike in their flat or at work.

The survey also didn't take into account your chances of having a bike nicked, which may have affected Liverpool's top spot. According to Cycling Plus's research, London is the least likely big city to have a bike nicked, and Hull the most.

Nevertheless, this bloke (right) in London's Jerusalem Tavern (which has no street bike parking) was taking no chances - another place where a Brompton comes in handy.


  1. It's interesting that they say 2/3 of people live within cycling distance of work, but don't actually seem to state anywhere how far they consider that to be.

    For some people anything over 3 miles is taking the piss, I do about 4.5 each way, Mike does 6.5 which I'd consider if I had to but would rather not. Other people happily commute 15+ miles each way, which is fine for them but not really realistic for most people. I wonder how far they actually meant.

  2. Gratifying to see our stuff in such hallowed pages.

    The survey - which I hasten to add is not pretend - was carried out during January 2010 and is based on 1633 responses.

    The best numbers we could find on the number of people living within cycling ditance of work were from the ONS. We took 10km to be the max for most commuters. I cycle further, but I think most non-cyclist might find more than 10km quite daunting.

  3. According to a well-known online encyclopaeda, the population of the 11 inner London boroughs is three millon. The land area is 123 sq mi which, if the perimeter were a circle, would represent a maximum radius of 6.25 miles from the centre.

    So, three million people live (40% of the population of Greater London) within 6.25 miles of the "centre" of London. Most will live rather nearer than this. That's a perfectly realistic cycling distance (I see James chose a similar distance), and demonstrates how London should be the greatest cycling city in Britain... if only the residents had anywhere to park their bikes.

  4. Well, 6.25 miles of London cycling is a very different proposition from 6.25 miles somewhere else. Much as I love(d) London, cycling in it wasn't something you undertook lightly and keeping up your vigilance for that distance could get rather wearing. My limit for cycling in London during rush hour was more like 3 miles though I'd happily hop on my bike now for the 8 miles into town along quiet rural roads. Of course, once everyone else is on a bike, that would change!

    The Guardian Bike Blog had a similar post a week or so back, pointing out that increasing road safety is no real benefit if it's only achieved by strapping everyone into cars.

  5. Hmm, so your "cycling distance" is about the distance that someone (me) who already commutes by bike considers to be grudgingly OK but not great. It's not surprising non-cyclists wouldn't really consider it terribly appealing, is it?

    James: I can't find a single link to the survey on the easyroommate site, so I'm not all that surprised that Rob might think it a bit suspect. It would be nice to see more of the results than that press release.

    Nigel: somehow it doesn't work like that though in practice. Consider me and Mike, with workplaces about 11 miles apart from each other we've managed to find a house somewhere in the middle where we can both commute by bike. And that's just in and around Cambridge, which is funnily enough rather smaller than London.

  6. They looked at CTC membership etc, but not at Cambridge Cycling Campaign membership - c'mon, there are over a thousand of us!

  7. CCyC response quoted at http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Home/Cycle-City-branded-the-most-dangerous.htm - pointing out that using the survey's methods makes motorways the safest places to cycle.