OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE’S CYCLING COMMUTERS ALERT TO 
GETTING BACK IN THE SADDLE OF SCIENCE AND TECH JOBS

As two of the UK's top cycle to work  cities, our research shows Oxford and Cambridge  are well placed to get back to work quicker and easier after the first lockdown-easing measures announced this week. Given the importance of both these cities to the fight against COVID-19 this is a welcome head start on the impending 'new normal', writes Bidwells research director Sue Foxley.

An illustrated graph that lists the UKs top cycle to work cities by proportion o

As the Government seek solutions to the challenge of getting the workforce back to work over the coming months, the challenge of commuting - and in particular constraints on public transport - has come to fore. Following weeks of lower transport-related pollution there is understandable anxiety to avoid nervous commuters opting for the car rather than their usual train, tube or bus. 

The Government shares this concern, the Prime Minister requesting in his May 10th speech that "when you do go to work, if possible do so by car or even better by walking or bicycle.” The Government has therefore announced financial and political support for alternative modes of transport over the coming months, and perhaps year or more. Also, over the weekend, the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, pledged £250m for improvements to cycling and walking infrastructure.

As businesses and organisations across the country prepare back to work strategies, it is helpful to understand the relative starting point for locations across the UK. Bidwells has analysed commuter behaviour across all of the UK’s Travel to Work Areas. The analysis focuses on the period of October-December, one the least popular time of year for cycling and therefore perhaps the most realistic to consider.

London understandably sees the highest number of total commutes by bike, with approximately 154,000 work journeys during the last three months of 2019. Excluding the capital, there is a more mixed picture, with some regional cities performing well, but science and tech centres, including Oxford and Cambridge, show a particularly high number of workers who cycle to work.

COMMUTE JOURNEYS (OCT TO DEC 2019) 000s

Bristol

27,689

 

Manchester

27,194

 

Oxford

25,370

 

Slough and Heathrow

22,363

 

Cambridge

21,288

 

Edinburgh

17,681

 

SOURCE: ONS, BIDWELLS 2019

NOTE: Analysis of the 30 UK Travel to Work Areas recording the highest number of commutes (excluding London)

To understand the potential impact of cycling on local area commuter traffic and the ability of local economies to ‘get back to work’ it is, of course, more valuable to consider activity relative to the total number of commutes by all modes of transport in an area.

Just 2% of commute journeys, on average, are undertaken by bike based on the Q4 2019 data analysed, but some locations already perform considerably better. These include several cycle to work schemes in Oxford and Cambridge, where a cycling ethos has combined with supportive infrastructure investment and bike-friendly policies to underpin the success of some locations ahead of others.

While this ONS data is based on relatively small-scale survey data at the local level, it suggests there are patterns in the type of workers commuting by bike, which also have local implications for the success of a ‘get on your bike’ back to work policy.

Those working in the industry sectors of Education or Professional, Scientific and Technical Activities dominate bike journeys in Oxford and Cambridge. The drivers of this are likely to be part cultural but also aided by the cycle infrastructure in place across the city’s science and tech parks, who encourage commuting on bike to work.

% BIKE JOURNEYS BY S&T

Oxford

83%

Cambridge

59%

London

47%

Southampton

45%

Edinburgh

36%

Portsmouth

30%

Bristol

22%

Liverpool

0%

Nottingham

0%

Cardiff

0%

SOURCE: ONS, BIDWELLS, 2019

This has two implications. First, the cities are well placed to show resilience during the coming period as we get to grips with the new normal. Second, given the importance of both these cities to the fight against COVID-19 and indeed other health and technical challenges facing society, the cities can get back to work quicker and easier. 

Clearly, there will still be challenges to avoid additional car journeys which present particular challenges in such historic and popular cities. However, the existing cycling infrastructure in Oxford and Cambridge provides the locations with a head start in getting back to work.

Read more from Bidwells on Oxford and Cambridge here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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