Cambridge comes second!

This article was published in 2010, in Newsletter 91.


Consultants, Steer Davies Gleaves, have produced a list of a number of large towns (47) with their ‘potential’ for cycling, and Cambridge has been beaten, not by that other place, Oxford, but by that northern town York.

So how was this done, and have we been stitched up, or are we lucky to hold onto second place?

Three factors were considered:

  • Hilliness
  • Socio-demographics
  • Trip length

Some 47 towns or areas were ‘ranked’ for each factor, and the results averaged, although trip length only carried half the weight.

Hilliness is the standard deviation of height over a grid, with Blackpool coming in first, Cambridge fifth, and High Wycombe last. Neither Halifax, Sheffield nor Bradford are on the list.

Socio-demographics looks at various factors such as qualifications, property values and occupations and weights these by propensity to cycle. Cambridge came top on that one, with Burnley/Nelson last.

Then we come to trip length. Basically this uses census ‘journey to work’ data and ranks towns by the percentage of trips considered ‘cycleable’ (under 8 km).

I think these data are flawed, and are really just a measure of commuting trips into London, with Cambridge, Slough, Crawley, and St Albans being the bottom four in the list. Although this rank is only given half the weight, I think it also needs to consider that many London-bound trips have cycling as at least one leg.

It is this low rank on trip length that pushes Cambridge off the top spot.

I’m not sure that averaging ranks is a valid method, and I suspect that the sums of values should be averaged, and then ranked.

Perhaps when I’ve half a day to spare I’ll drag one of my statistics books off the top shelf and rework the figures.

Of course, if you’ve got the skills, and half a day, all the data are available in the report, which can be downloaded from:

Jim Chisholm