More than a third of people now cycle, up 30% on 2017

20 December 2021    

Third iteration of biennial research shows how attitudes around cycling in Scotland have changed since 2017

  • Environmental concerns more than twice as important now as a factor to get people on their bikes
  • 70% increase in young people cycling since 2017
  • However, one in five (20%) don’t have somewhere to store a bike

More than a third of people (35%) now cycle for transport or leisure, regularly or occasionally, a 30% increase since 2017, a study by the nation’s cycling organisation has found.

Every two years, Cycling Scotland – the nation’s cycling organisation – commissions independent research, funded by Transport Scotland, to track attitudes towards cycling. More than 1,000 people (1,029) across Scotland were interviewed face-to-face in August and September 2021.

The study – released today (Monday 20 December 2021) – found there has been a 30%* increase in the number of people cycling since 2017. In 2017, the research found that 27% of people in Scotland cycled for transport or leisure, once every few months or more regularly. In 2021, the same figure is now 35%.

Four in 10 (39%) 18 to 24-year-olds living in Scotland now cycle for everyday journeys compared to just 23% in 2017 – a rise of 70% in the past four years.

And the number of people citing the environment as a reason they cycle has more than doubled since 2017, rising from 12% to 22% in 2019 and 28% in 2021.

But while the past two years saw the weekly use of all other forms of transport drop, the number of people cycling at least once a week rose by a third – from 9% in 2019 to 12% in 2021.

Keith Irving, Chief Executive of Cycling Scotland, said: “The world has changed considerably since we last carried out this tracker research in 2019. With 35% of the population cycling for transport or leisure, it’s encouraging to see cycling becoming a much more common way of getting around and getting exercise. As well as helping people feel healthier and happier, swapping the car for the bike remains key in tackling the climate emergency.”

The research released today highlights barriers to people cycling that need to be addressed:

  • Parents are concerned about the safety of their local roads for children, with 70% rating them negatively and one-in-six (16%) saying the roads were ‘extremely unsafe’ for kids cycling.
  • Almost two-thirds (61%) said a lack of cycle lanes or traffic-free routes prevented them cycling more.
  • One in five (20%) reported that they did not have somewhere they could store a bike.

Irving added: “To help more people to cycle, we need to ensure access to bikes and storage, both at home and at destinations including workplaces and shops. We can see in our research that roads being too busy is one of the biggest barriers to cycling — we need to reduce vehicle traffic in shopping and residential streets, in line with the welcome Scottish Government commitment to reduce vehicle kilometres by 20% by 2030.

“To make our roads safer, particularly for children, a network of dedicated cycling lanes, separated from traffic, is the biggest priority. And every journey cycled will make a difference in cutting emissions in a just transition to Net Zero.”

*35% of the population surveyed reported they cycle for transport or leisure once every few months or more regularly. This is consistent with 2019 (33%) but higher than 2017 (27%). Therefore, there has been a 30% growth in the number of people who ever cycle recorded between 2017 and 2021.