Walking and Cycling Index: Greater Cambridge leads the way for active travel

Published 11 March 2024

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Greater Cambridge has retained its crown as the UK’s leading city region for walking and cycling, but 50% of its residents would like to cycle more.

That’s according to a new report produced by national walking and cycling charity Sustrans, in partnership with the Greater Cambridge Partnership.

A survey carried out as part of the Walking and Cycling Index found that over 155 million walking, cycling and wheeling trips were made in the past year. This was a significant increase on the 126 million journeys made two years previously. The study also found that 56% of people walk five days a week or more, and 45% of residents ride a bike once a week or more.

The report found that active travel has helped to prevent 987 serious long-term health conditions each year and saved 27,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s equivalent to about 63,000 people taking flights from Stansted to Tenerife.

But despite the high levels of participation already taking place, there could be even more people who want to ditch the car. Findings showed that 28% of people would like to use their car less, with 44% saying they often used their car because they felt they had no alternative.

The latest survey explored the barriers to active travel and asked residents what might encourage them to participate more in walking, cycling, and wheeling.

In terms of specific measures there was:

  • Strong support for the creation of more paths physically separated from traffic and pedestrians (70%), even if it’s at the expense of cars
  • Demand for more government spending in their area on walking and wheeling (56%)

The survey of 1,136 residents was conducted from March to June 2023 by social research organisation NatCen and is representative of all residents, not just those who walk, wheel or cycle. Its findings are the strongest evidence yet that public support is shifting towards measures which encourage active travel.

Cllr Elisa Meschini, Chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership and Deputy Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, said:

“I welcome this report and I am really pleased to see so many people continue to walk, wheel and cycle across our area. But it also demonstrates continued high support for further investment in walking, wheeling, and cycling and how there is more work to be done.”

She added: “Reporting every two years, the Walking and Cycling Index helps us to further understand what people want, and need, to get out of their cars. Its findings show that public support is shifting towards measures which encourage more walking and cycling. The GCP and county council are committed to improving people’s journeys by providing safer and more sustainable travel options, including new walking, cycling and equestrian routes such as the Greenways, Chisholm Trail and Abbey Chesterton Bridge.”

Clare Maltby, Sustrans England Director, Midlands, and East, added:

“It is truly inspiring to see the level of cycling, walking and wheeling enjoyed in Greater Cambridge. The area was already the record holder, but has managed to increase the number of journeys travelled actively by 30 million over two years!

"Good planning and good investment mean that there are quality routes for people to use. And respondents have shown there is appetite for much more. We will continue to work closely with the Greater Cambridge Partnership to see this delivered. As we head into a year of local and national elections, I would urge decision makers to take note of these findings.”

The Walking and Cycling Index (Formerly Bike Life) is the biggest assessment of walking and cycling in urban areas in the UK and Ireland. It is delivered in collaboration with 23 cities and urban areas every two years. Visit the Sustrans' website to read the report in full.