National news

This article was published in 2021, in Magazine 151.

National road traffic data for 2020 show highest level of cycling since the 1960s

Department for Transport chart showing motor vehicle levels down in 2020 and cycle use up

At the end of April, the Department for Transport published a report looking at the trends shown in road traffic estimates for 2020. 280.5 billion vehicle miles were driven on Great Britain’s roads in 2020, a decrease of 21.3% compared to the previous year, as mileage for all forms of motorised transport reduced as a result of lockdowns imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In contrast, during the same year, there was a 45.7% increase in cycle mileage on the roads, to a total of 5 billion miles travelled, with the highest increases seen on minor roads and during April and May at the beginning of the first lockdown. This is the highest level of cycling seen on the public highway since the 1960s.

Cycling UK claim government is hiding active travel report

Giving evidence at a Transport Committee inquiry on public transport, Cycling UK policy director Roger Geffen claimed that the government was suppressing the findings of research into active travel which showed that the £2 billion of funding announced in 2020 was only a quarter to a third of the investment needed to meet the government’s own targets (including doubling cycling trips in England by 2025).

Geffen told the committee that the Department for Transport report shows that it needed to invest between £6 billion and £8 billion on active travel over the next four years. He said the government needed ‘to publish the suppressed report and act on its findings as a matter of urgency’.

UK transport groups support collision reporting guidelines

Guiding principles for the reporting of road collisions issued in May are supported by the National Union of Journalists as well as active travel organisations, the AA and the Transport Research Laboratory.

The guidelines encourage fair and accurate reporting such as using the word ‘crash’ instead of accident and ascribing agency to motorists rather than claiming ‘Car hits child in pushchair’.

Global shortage of bike parts may be fuelling cycle theft

Cycle sales in the UK were up 45% in 2020 and continue to be strong in 2021 according to the Bicycle Association, with high demand for all types of cycle from e-bikes and folding bikes to road bikes and hybrids. However, bike manufacturers and parts suppliers are still unable to meet retailers’ requirements, and issues including Brexit-related hold-ups at British ports and a worldwide shortage of shipping containers are adding to the delay.

The owner of a London bike shop told that some customers had been ‘getting cassettes, derailleurs, even chains taken off their bikes’ as waiting times for parts were often five to six weeks. With demand for cycles high on second-hand selling sites, British bike insurer Bikmo said claims for theft were up 23% last year. Its figures show incidents of theft from homes made up 49% of total claims in 2020 with road and commuter bikes the most commonly stolen.

News in numbers


is the amount by which the UK has pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 2035 (based on 1990 levels). This goal, part of the country’s sixth Carbon Budget, will incorporate the UK’s share of aviation and shipping emissions for the first time. The government’s transport decarbonisation plan is due to be published this year.

5 million

Britons have been inspired to buy a bike since March 2020 according to figures produced by British Cycling following a survey carried out in March 2021. 34% were motivated to cycle for the mental health benefits and 44% to help with physical fitness.