Oxford and Cambridge Cycling Survey

This article was published in 2005, in Newsletter 61.

We reported on the Oxford and Cambridge Cycling Survey earlier this year, in Newsletter 59. The survey was commissioned by Oxfordshire County Council and conducted by Dr Ian Walker from the University of Bath in Spring 2005. Dr Walker’s report on the survey has now been published.

A total of 4,771 responses were received, 2,433 (51%) from Cambridge and 2,338 (49%) from Oxford. More men responded (54.4%) than women (45.6%). Oxford residents appear more likely than their Cambridge counterparts to use a bicycle as an end in itself, reporting substantially more recreational riding and racing.

The survey sought to understand respondents’ experiences of cycling, their types of bicycles, care of bikes, handling of bikes, experiences of riding in traffic, experiences of accidents and general ride behaviour.

The key findings reported are:

  • Close to 5,000 people returned a survey form. The peak age range of respondents was 21-30.
  • The most common reasons for bicycle trips were commuting and shopping.
  • The longest journey a person regularly made by bicycle was, typically, 3.3 miles.
  • The clear majority of bicycles were traditionally framed, with derailleur gears, rim brakes, and battery lamps front and rear.
  • Men were substantially more likely than women to carry out routine maintenance on their bicycles.
  • One-third of respondents had experienced an accident in the past year, 72% of which resulted in no actual injury.
  • 61% of seriously injurious accidents (and 93.8% of all accidents) were not reported to authorities. Even for serious accidents caused by a motorist, less than one-third were reported.
  • Women have been found more likely than men to experience certain types of serious accident; accordingly, they reported being substantially less able to look back over their shoulders and to tell when it is safe to pull into traffic.

The report makes a number of infrastructure recommendations:

Drop kerbs should be flush with the road surface
Image as described adjacent
  • The skidding risk for single-track vehicles should be reduced through careful placement of metal road surfaces.
  • Research should be carried out to investigate higher-friction alternatives to the smooth metal finish currently employed on inlaid road fixtures.
  • The need for cyclists to cross kerbs should be minimised.
  • Drop kerbs should be flush with the road surface.
  • Routine maintenance should be given a higher priority in the promotion of cycling.
  • Highways maintenance authorities should set up systems for the public to report damaged road surfaces.

It also makes a number of training recommendations:

  • Cyclists should be warned of the risks posed by inlaid metal road surfaces
  • Cyclists should be warned about crossing dropped kerbs
  • Research should address the gender difference in moving-to-the-right accidents

The 19-page report, and a summary of it, are well worth reading. They can be found at www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/cyclingsurvey.htm

Given this work’s focus on eventually understanding bus/bike interactions, I felt that one key omission from the report was any statement of levels of bike and bus usage in either city. It is my experience that Oxford has much higher levels of bus use than Cambridge, whereas Cambridge has much higher levels of cycle use than Oxford.

The researchers will now carry out observation of cycle-bus interactions on the roads in both cities, and they will also interview bus drivers from Oxford Bus and Stagecoach to learn about their experiences on the roads.

Clare Macrae