Saturation point – the dashing already cycle

As part of my participation at the International Cycling Conference (poster and paper The potential cyclist), I was prompted to have a look at the Transport Types dataset, survey listed here. Thanks again for everyone who contributed, and thanks for passing the survey on to friends, family, colleagues. It worked a treat with 1,673 responses clocked!

For this blogpost, a sneak preview of sorts, first I sliced the dataset, horizontally by age, then parted it vertically by cycling activity. This resulted in the specific subset of the data:

  • UK respondents between 40-49 years of age (which got the largest number of responses for the different age ranges).
  • I then simply divided the dataset into two distinct groups: non-cycling and transport cycling (in the last month).

This meant looking at 99 non-cycling and 296 transport-cycling responses. And continually, painfully, bearing in mind that the UK population on the whole has about 3% of regular transport cyclists.

One of the survey questions, and the one I am concentrating on here, inquired about comfortable cycling conditions. And big differences were noted here. There were five road categories presented in the survey, listed in increasing dominance of motor traffic (category 1 on traffic-free paths to category 5 in fast traffic). See at the end for the detailed description of the road categories.


Transport cyclists are much more content/willing to cycle in motor traffic.

The highest number of transport-cycling respondents chose Cat 3 (31%), whereas the non-cycling group favoured Cat 1 (43%).

When 24% of transport cyclists stated they were comfortable in Cat 5, the non-cyclists’ reply was 7% for that category.



The important message for me here is this. To paraphrase Spotswood et al. (2015), previous governments, local and national, have tried to bridge this vast (perception and action) gap by offering training, information and education (liberal approach), measures also sometimes included victim blaming (conservative approach). What is now crystal clear is that this gap is not a “liberal gap” it is in fact a “radical gap” to be resolved by structural measures to the urban built environment: making cycling the easy choice (Pooley et al. 2013; Pucher and Buehler 2012). Read more about the radical/liberal/conservative distiction here.

It is also important to note that the data demonstrates how urban design shapes human reactions. In the UK, the roads attract the fearless, who think cycling in motor traffic is ok, even comfortable. Exclusively, the fit and the brave can cycle due to the motor-dominant traffic environments. We possibly have reached a saturation point with the current road layouts that we have got. The sheer lack of comfort and convenience – the sheer lack of cycle-specific infrastructure, links and networks – is discriminating against the young, the older, less sporty, or journeys with life-responsibilities (kids) or difficult journeys with shopping. This sits neatly with Roger Geller’s “four types” typology: in the US city of Portland the fearless are 6%, whereas the “interested but concerned” make 60%  of the population (Dill and McNeil 2013). The “interested but concerned” are the target group for the urban cycling revolution. And yes, to activate the majority cycling must be made a real and easy choice through building cycleways and linking these up into citywide networks.

All this gives hope to public officials who want to make some progress on transitioning the transport system away from the private car. The majority has spoken.


Dill, Jennifer, and Nathan McNeil. 2013. ‘Four Types of Cyclists?’ Transportation Research Record, no. 2387: 129–38. doi:10.3141/2387-15.

Pooley, Colin G., T. Jones, M. Tight, D. Horton, G. Scheldeman, C. Mullen, A Jopson, and E. Strano. 2013. Promoting Walking and Cycling : New Perspectives on Sustainable Travel. Book, Whole. Bristol: Policy Press.

Pucher, John R., and Ralph Buehler. 2012. City Cycling. Book, Whole. MIT Press.

Spotswood, Fiona, Tim Chatterton, Alan Tapp, and David Williams. 2015. ‘Analysing Cycling as a Social Practice: An Empirical Grounding for Behaviour Change’. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour 29: 22–33. doi:10.1016/j.trf.2014.12.001.

Road categories

Category 1 – A path or trail separate from the street and traffic

Category 2 – A quiet, residential street with traffic speeds of 20-25 miles per hour

Category 3 – A two-lane neighbourhood commercial shopping street with traffic speeds of 25-30 miles per hour, on-street car parking, and no bike lane

Category 4 – A major urban or suburban street with four lanes, on-street parking, traffic speeds of 30-35 miles per hour, and no bike lane

Category 5 – A major street with two lanes in each direction, a centre divider, on-street parking, traffic speeds of 35-40 miles per hour, and no bike lane

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