Cycling levels in York have dropped to below the numbers seen in 2009.
The proportion of residents actively cycling climbed from 2009 to reach a high in 2014 – but there has been an almost 40 per cent drop in cycling activity between 2014 and 2020.
City of York Council officers highlighted that the yearly cycling activity count carried out during 2020 took place in lockdown, when people were asked to stay at home, but the data still reveals a 20 per cent drop in cycling before the pandemic in 2019.
Labour councillor Pete Kilbane asked ruling Liberal Democrat and Green Party councillors what has gone wrong.
He said: “Cycling rates have dropped significantly in the city since 2014.
“I think the actual figures are in 2014 we had 40,000 people cycling regularly and that’s now gone down to about 28,000 people.
“In other words that equates to one in three people who used to cycle regularly having stopped.
“Most of that decline has happened in the past year when we’ve ironically had a Green Party executive member for transport and all this at a time when nationally cycling rates are going up.
“I’m wondering if you can tell me what the hell has gone wrong?”
Higher than average
Council leader Keith Aspden pointed to data in a report that says that despite the drop, 50 per cent of adults in York walk or cycle five times a week. This is higher than the regional average – 34.1 per cent – and the national average – 35.8 per cent.
James Gilchrist, director of transport at the council, said that despite higher than average cycling rates there has been a “bubbling along” trend in the numbers for the past five years.
He said: “2020 was quite an abnormal year. We had a year of being told not to travel and I accept that some people use bikes as exercise, but people’s behaviours changed quite significantly during 2020 so I wouldn’t call it a typical year.
“The council took a lot of measures last year to improve and make space for walking and cycling but I think the government’s ‘please don’t travel’ message will have been part of the factor for a dip in 2020.”
York Cycle Campaign staged a protest this month calling for the council to make cycling safer in the city and urging it to spend the £850,000 given to York council by the government for active travel schemes, including cycle lanes.