Support for more funding of cycle lanes has dropped over the last two years, survey shows

More journeys were taken by bike in 2023 than 2021, says Sustrans

SUPPORT for funding more cycle lanes in Cardiff has gone down over the last two years, according to a survey conducted by Sustrans.

Sustrans is a charity that promotes walking and cycling in the UK. Every two years they collect data from surveying people on their attitudes towards cycling and walking.

Climate policies to reduce driving and encourage cycling have been controversial in recent years, as protests over the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London and blanket 20 mph speed limit in Wales have shown.

Now that has been underlined by the Sustrans survey, which consulted 1,169 people in Cardiff aged 16 or older.

Percentage of people in Cardiff who want more funding for public transport, cycling or driving in their area

Source: Sustrans Walking and Cycling Index 2023

Only 41% of people said they wanted to see more funding for cycling in the 2023 survey, compared with 58% in 2019. Support for more funding for driving, while still lower than in 2019, rose by 7% between 2021 and 2023.

Siân Donovan, director of Pedal Power Cardiff, a charity that promotes cycling, said: “That feeling of ‘them versus us’ just seems to be being ramped up all the time in various guises and one of them then becomes against cyclists.

“Now, it’s ‘the devil’s work’ putting in a cycle way.”

How often people in Cardiff cycle

Source: Sustrans Walking and Cycling Index 2023

Ms Donovan said: “Somehow climate and all the benefits of cycling, including the health benefits, have just been forgotten completely.

“It’s absurd, plus a driver is not just a driver – drivers are also cyclists, and a cyclist is not just a cyclist – cyclists are also drivers.”

Siân Donovan, director of Pedal Power Cardiff at the launch of the Walking and Cycling Index 2023 Credit: Eoin McCaul

Sustrans estimated that cycling in Cardiff saves the NHS £2.4 million per year through the health benefits it brings.

The survey also shows some other trends.

Fewer people in Cardiff cycled regularly in 2023 compared with two years earlier, despite three miles of new cycle paths being built. In 2023, 19% cycled at least once a week, down from 23% in 2021.

Stephen Cunnah, policy and external affairs manager at Sustrans, said: “I don’t think it’s statistically significant. However, obviously we would prefer it to be seen to be going up.”

Percentage of people in Cardiff who use the following modes of transport at least five days a week

Source: Sustrans Walking and Cycling Index 2023

However, two million more trips were made by bike between 2021 and 2023.

As the survey was carried out in spring 2023 it may not reflect the impact of the 20mph speed limit being introduced.

The previous survey was completed in 2021, so may have been affected by the pandemic which caused a massive change in how people travel – many were hesitant to use public transport.

Stephen Cunnah, policy and external affairs manager at Sustrans. Credit: Eoin McCaul

Mr Cunnah said: “There is a strand of opinion which sees, for example, people who cycle as a hindrance to the ‘majority’ who drive. I think that’s wrong-headed – when people do walk and cycle, it actually reduces congestion because they’re not in a car.

“I cycle around Cardiff, not only because I’m passionate about cycling, but it’s actually the easiest way to get around. Walking and cycling are the cheapest way to travel, you know, you’re going to save a lot of money. 

“I think we need to be better at making the argument as well to persuade those people who are maybe persuaded by the emotional or culture war arguments that others might make.”