More than two million people over the age of 16 cycle at least once a week in England. That’s 66,000 more people than in October 2013. The data comes from Sport England’s most recent Active People Survey, which also shows that the nation’s top sport, swimming, is on the decline.
Two million people may be cycling today, but in 2005, just 1.6 million people participated in this sport in a week. Over the last decade, nearly 400,000 more people have taken up this sport.
To qualify, participants must have engaged in the sport at moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes or more once per week. For cycling, this includes competitive and recreational, which means commuters who cycle to work are not included in the survey results.
Cycling is undoubtedly on the rise in England. So much so that the Department for Transport has plans to double cycling by 2025 and hopes to secure more funding for cycle schemes across the country. The goal is not only reduce congestion and pollution on England’s roads, but to also improve the health and wellbeing of its citizens.
Funding for cycling has steadily increased over the years. Currently, the country spends about £5 per person per year on cycling. Ultimately, the department hopes to increase that funding to £10 per person by 2020.
British Cycling was also welcoming of the news of cycling’s increased participation levels. CEO Ian Drank says that the appetite for cycling in England is greater than ever before. He says more people are riding every week no matter the weather. British Cycling will now focus on helping the sport grow. The organization has forged new partnerships with transport authorities, councils and the private sector.
The future of cycling sure looks bright, but the same can’t be said for other sports surveyed by Sport England.
While the number of people participating in weekly athletics has risen from 1.4 million in 2005 to 2.2 million in 2014, there’s been a decline in the number of people participating in sport between 2013 and 2014. According to the survey, 125,100 fewer people took part in sport last year.
Swimming took the biggest hit. Exercise, movement and dance also lagged behind. Other sports to see a decline are squash and racketball, basketball and rugby.
Swimming still leads as the most popular sport, but cycling may surpass it in the near future. In 2005-2006, there were 3,273,800 (or 8.04%) people swimming once per week. In 2013-2014, that number dipped down to 2,689,200 (or 6.16%). With 245,000 fewer people participating in the sport since last year, the sport may see a decrease in funding from Sport England. Funding has been cut in the past for other sports that were in decline.
Athletics and football both saw an increase in participants. However, the number of people playing football is still on the decline. In 2005-2006, there were roughly 2 million people playing the sport, but by 2013-2014, that number had dropped to 1,894,400 participants. No changes were reported for other popular sports, such as tennis, golf, badminton and equestrian.
As of 2014, cycling ranks as the third most popular sport according to the survey. Athletics comes in at a close second (2,161,600), and that sport has seen an increase as well over the last year.
The latest Active People survey shows an encouraging shift in the number of people engaging in sport. In December 2013, the survey showed a distressing decrease in the number of people playing sport.
Our advice for anyone looking to get involved in cycling is to find yourself a cheap beginners bike and just start riding in your local area. For anyone who doesn’t want to brave the British winter but still wants to keep fit, just find some exercise bike reviews and see which will suit your needs, then enjoy practising for the real thing when the weather improves.