Travel for Work survey results

This article was published in 1999, in Newsletter 22.

Staff at the County Council are polishing off an analysis of the replies from the Travel for Work survey, held in August. The response was impressive, especially given the time scales involved. Of the 9,000 survey forms distributed, 2,147 (24%) were returned.

Of those who replied, 20% said cycling was their main method of travel that day. This seems different to the oft-quoted figure of approximately 25% of journeys to work in the city being by bike. However, this overall figure doesn’t reveal the length of journeys, so the two numbers aren’t directly comparable.

Modal split for travel to work. The outer section is for all companies; the inner section shows the figues for the science park alone.
Image as described adjacent

We ran our own survey of Science Park vehicle movements on 24 September, so we were keen to compare these with the council’s. Bidwells assisted the County Council in this exercise, and 939 responses were received from Science Park staff – a response rate of just over 20%. Of these, 12% said they had cycled to work. Given the location of the Science Park, very close to the A14, and the cycle-unfriendliness of its environment, it is probably not surprising that this is considerably lower than the 20% overall figure. Furthermore, the low level of cycling on the Science Park has a big effect on the overall Cambridge figure. I calculate that approximately 26% of non-Science Park staff cycled on the day!

During our two-hour survey, 10.7% of movements into the Science Park were by bike. Given the differing nature of the two surveys (methods, dates and weather) the Science Park figures are in remarkably good agreement.

An incredible 90% of individuals who responded to the questionnaire had a free car parking space available for their use while at work. A quarter of the 10% who did not have a car parking space at work left their vehicle at home. This gives an indication of the importance of taxing of work-place parking.

Each member of the Travel for Work scheme who returned more than 50 surveys has received a detailed report, including a breakdown of responses to all the questions. Each report contains a map showing the starting points for each journey (based on home postcode), with a symbol showing the method of transport used. This will enable companies to decide which are the ‘easy wins’ when targeting improvements.

There were also questions about each mode of transport, asking what specific changes would encourage people to switch from driving to car sharing, public transport, cycling or walking. The table below shows the responses for cycling.

Improvement Requests from non-cyclists
Better quality cycle routes 49%
More cycle routes 47%
Better maintained cycle routes 34%
Less traffic 34%
Shower/Changing facilities 32%
Secure cycle parking 29%
Slower traffic 15%
Other 22%

Personally, I worry that showers, for example, are a bit of a red herring. I fear that the survey tells us that 32% of non-cyclists have the perception that cycling is hard work, rather than that it tells us about the likelihood of cycling increasing if showers are installed. For example, I work in a 35-person company with a very nice shower. I calculate that 40% of staff cycle regularly, and 15% cycle occasionally. The shower only gets used after lunch-time sporting activities. I’d be interested in feedback from others who work at locations with showers, to hear how typical this is. (I do know a few cyclists who are very grateful for the shower facilities at their workplace – but they tend to cycle very fast, and further than ten miles each way to work, and so are unlikely to be typical of most potential cyclists.)

On a brighter note, however, the survey does demonstrate that a huge number of people are willing to consider changing their mode of transport, which is very good news indeed for the Travel for Work and Safer Routes to Schools initiatives.

This first survey was deliberately carried out during the school summer holidays, when congestion is lower. The aim is to run four regular surveys a year. The next one was due on 20 January, within school term. A comparison of journey times over several such snapshots will be interesting. Hopefully it will also be broadened to include non-business travel, too; school journeys would be an obvious candidate.

The Transport Research Laboratory has recently published some very interesting research into Attitudes to Cycling. The report is one of the outcomes of the National Cycling Strategy, and includes lots of valuable information about effective, and ineffective, ways of promoting cycling. It makes very interesting reading, especially in conjunction with the results of this survey.

These surveys have been launched at just the right time. To assess potential changes, and to evaluate the effectiveness of changes, companies involved in the Travel for Work and Cycle Friendly Employers schemes need information on staff travel habits. Meanwhile, guidance from central government makes it clear that in future bids for funding, local authorities need to show they are monitoring the effectiveness of completed schemes.

This series of surveys will provide the detailed data required, avoiding duplication of effort, making the exercise worthwhile.

Clare Macrae