One year on: cycling up 47% in Scotland

6 April 2021    

One year since Covid-19 restrictions were first introduced in Scotland, new data shows a 47% rise in people cycling from 23 March 2020­ to 22 March 2021 compared to same period 2019-2020.

Scotland has seen a surge in the number of people cycling in the past 12 months, according to data from the nation’s cycling organisation.

Statistics released today (Tuesday 6 April) by Cycling Scotland show 47 per cent more cycling journeys were recorded between 23 March 2020 and 22 March 2021 compared to the same period 2019­–2020.

Since Covid-19 restrictions first came into force on 23 March 2020, the nation’s cycling organisation has released regular updates on the number of people cycling in Scotland, using its nationwide network of automatic cycle counters to compile the data.

Increases of 68 per cent in April, 77 per cent in May, 63 per cent in June, 44 per cent in July and 33 per cent in August were recorded, compared to the same months in 2019.

September saw a rise of 32 per cent, followed by October (22 per cent), November (7 per cent) and December (4 per cent). During bad weather in January this year, cycling numbers decreased 14 per cent before rising 20 per cent in February.

And today (Tuesday 6 April 2021), Cycling Scotland also announced its latest monthly figures, using data from 47 automatic cycle counters nationwide.

The statistics reveal a 52 per cent increase in the number of people cycling across the nation between 1 and 22 March 2021 versus the same three weeks in 2020 – before the first Covid-19 restrictions were introduced in Scotland.

Twenty counters saw a year-on-year increase of more than 100 per cent, with counters in Girvan (Victory Park Road), Callander (Glen Gardens) and Dunoon (Victoria Parade) showing hikes of 256, 179 and 113 per cent respectively.

The information was collected as part of the National Monitoring Framework, managed by Cycling Scotland, to monitor cycling rates across the country.

Latest figures from the Bicycle Association show sales of bikes, bike parts, accessories and services increased by 45 per cent across the UK in 2020, with the trend set to continue.    

Cycling Scotland Chief Executive Keith Irving said: “It has been a horrendous year, but one of the few bright spots has been more people getting back on their bikes.

“Cycling has a key role to play in people getting exercise and fresh air, managing the ongoing pressure on our transport system and, crucially, tackling the global climate emergency we face.

“We’re delighted at the massive increase in cycling and it’s vital we see it continue and expand. 

“To get even more people cycling, we need to invest more in infrastructure so people feel safe to cycle. We need more dedicated cycle lanes, separated from vehicles and pedestrians. We need to reduce traffic, especially on residential and shopping streets. And we need to increase access to bikes and storage to tackle the barriers too many people face so anyone, anywhere can enjoy all the benefits of cycling.

“Helping far more people to cycle is key in delivering a green recovery from Covid and supporting a just transition towards a net-zero Scotland. Every journey cycled will make a difference.”

Claire Sharp is a charity worker who lives on Glasgow’s south side. She started cycling again last year. “I live next to a main road that leads into the city centre to my work; it’s an easy route but the traffic there is so heavy. I was too scared to attempt it in the past,” she said.

“I knew lockdown was going to happen and thought it would be good to get a bike. Partly as the roads would be quiet, which would be good for a beginner, and also for exercise as the gyms would be closed. Luckily, I managed to get one the weekend before lockdown started.

“Apart from being able to get out and exercise, it’s improved my mental health as it’s given me confidence to do something I didn’t think I could do. It’s made me feel empowered. I’ve also found going for a cycle after work helps me process things that have happened during the day and makes me less stressed.”

She added: “I’m hoping to be brave enough to start cycling to work when all the Covid-19 restrictions are removed, although I might need some more persuasion in the winter. I’m looking forward to more cycling for exercise and bike-ride day-trips with my friends.”

Asif Sattar (45) is an IT worker from Motherwell. He said: “I played football all my days and as there was a lockdown I took up cycling. Cycling was a way for me to break free of the lockdown gloom. 

“As I was working from home, getting out on my bike helped me exercise, clear the mind and refocus on my health during the pandemic. 

“Me and a group of friends now go out every week and have even planned a cycling holiday once the restrictions ease.”