Research & reports

Title: Summary of Outcomes of the Cycling Demonstration Towns and Cycling City and Towns Programmes

Organisation: Department for Transport
Date uploaded: 2nd August 2017
Date published/launched: April 2017

Transport for Quality of Life & DfT

The Cycling Demonstration Towns (CDT) programme ran from October 2005 to March 2011, and involved six medium-sized towns, with populations of between 65,000 and 245,000 people. The partly concurrent Cycling City and Towns (CCT) programme ran from July 2008 to March 2011. It involved one substantially larger city (Greater Bristol), one significantly smaller town (Leighton Linslade) and a further ten towns of medium size, with populations ranging from 75,000 to 240,000.

In all 18 towns and cities, the focus of the programme was on encouraging more cycling for short ‘everyday’ urban trips – that is, those trips which when made by car contribute disproportionately to congestion. Taken overall, the annual expenditure per head of population was £17 for five-and-a-half years in the CDTs and £14 for just under three years in the CCTs. Expenditure comprised both capital (about 80% and 70% for the CCT and CDT programmes respectively) and revenue (20-30%).

Cycling trips increased across both programmes overall, and also individually in all 18 towns and cities, by different amounts. From automatic count data, there was an overall increase of 29% for the six CDTs in 5.5 years (range across towns: 6% - 59%); and an overall increase of 24% for the 12 CCTs over three years (range across towns: 9% - 62%).
The annual rate of growth for the CDT and CCT programmes overall (5.3% and 8.0% respectively) is comparable to rates of growth seen in international cities which have demonstrated sustained long-term commitment to cycling.

This growth in cycling trips was widespread, rather than being confined to a few locations, so that, overall, seven in every 10 automatic cycle counters recorded increases compared to around a quarter recording decreases. Manual count data indicate that the growth in cycling trips picked up by automatic counters was real, and not simply the result of a transfer of cycle activity from on-road locations to the off-road cycle paths where automatic counters are generally located.

From the longer time-series of data for the CDTs, we can say that it appeared possible to sustain growth in cycling throughout the programme period (that is, no ‘glass ceiling’ was reached), although special circumstances in some towns meant that they saw less growth in the latter part of the programme.

Towns with a range of characteristics and baseline levels of cycling were able to deliver increases in cycle trips. The similarity of the scale of effect in the CCT and CDT programmes gives us confidence that a similar effect might be expected if a comparable investment programme took place in similar areas – that is, we can say that the results of the programme appear to be replicable.

The results vary across the towns. The analysis has not identified a clear pattern of which factors determine the extent of impact, but obvious factors that differed between the towns included the nature and extent of delivery (including the capital and revenue split), the target groups, the profile and extent of support for the initiatives that were introduced, changes in political support at different stages of the programme, baseline levels of cycling and baseline levels of car dependence, amongst other factors.
The measured increases in cycle activity may be associated with more people taking up cycling (rather than being solely due to existing cyclists making more trips by bike or travelling further), but the evidence currently available is not conclusive on this question. Evidence collected in the CDTs suggests that there was an increase in the proportion of adults who cycled once a week or more, from about 24% to about 27% in the first half of the programme (the proportion was static in the second half). In Bristol, other evidence shows that the proportion of adults who sometimes cycled for longer trips (over 30 minutes) may have increased from about 13% at the start of the programme to about 20%. There was also an increase in the proportion of secondary school pupils who reported that they usually cycled to school, from about 4% to about 8% in the CCTs, with more modest but still positive changes in CDT secondary schools and both sets of primary schools.

Evidence from the CDTs shows that the increased participation in cycling amongst adults was spread across most age groups, both genders, and most socioeconomic groups with the exception of group DE.

The rate of growth in cycling trips in the CDTs and CCTs appears to have been higher during the period of the CDT / CCT programme, when compared to the period immediately prior to the programme. Indicatively, this ‘uplift’ was of the order of 2 to 3%-points per year. Thus, the average growth rate during the programme period (about 6% per year using a subset of counters with both pre- and in-programme data) was roughly double the growth rate before the programme started (about 3% per year), although this conclusion should be treated with caution due to variations in the data.

Overall, we conclude that there is good evidence that the number of cycling trips has increased to varying degrees across the CDT and CCT programmes. Insufficient robust data is available to address the question of whether this increase is attributable to the investment programme, or simply reflects wider trends. Based on available evidence, we suggest that these programmes may have delivered greater uplift in cycling than would have happened without the investment, although we cannot say definitively that this is the case.

The CDT/CCT programmes took place in a context which was not ideal. Improvements in the towns were limited by political expediency; there were problems with funding uncertainty in the final year of the programme; and the programme was of short duration. Changing behavioural patterns is a long-term, difficult task and we should be realistic about what is possible within short timeframes and in a policy context which is not always fully supportive. Both the quality of cycling provision and the levels of cycling in the CDTs and CCTs remain modest in relation to that observed in much of continental Europe.

However, the monitoring data suggest that these towns are entitled to consider themselves as ‘standard bearers’ for the future growth of cycling in Britain. The data from the CDT / CCT programme also suggest that, with continued effort and investment, it should be possible to achieve significantly higher levels of cycling in the UK.

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