Vive le Tour!
By Oliver W Duke-Williams, on 19 July 2013
The 100th edition of the Tour de France will reach its conclusion this Sunday in Paris, with – for the first time – a night finish on the Champs-Élysées; Chris Froome is the favourite to win, following in the tyre treads of Sir Bradley Wiggins, who became the first ever British tour winner last year. Meanwhile, Mark Cavendish has become the outright record holder for the number of mass finish stage wins.
Has the success of British cyclists in road races and on the track inspired more people to take up cycling? We can use the Longitudinal Study and other Census resources to explore this…One way of judging this is to look at the number of people who cycle to work. The decennial Census has long asked respondents about their mode of transport to work. Table 1 shows the proportions of people (with residences in England and Wales) who indicated various different methods of travel for (the longest part of) their journey to work at Censuses in 1991, 2001 and 2011. The question wording and response categories have varied slightly over time, here the 2011 labels are used. On the basis of this Table, it would appear that the use of cycles to get to work fell between 1991 and 2001, and then remained relatively static between 2001 and 2011.
|Method of travel to work||1991 SWS1||2001 SWS||2011 Census|
|Work mainly at or from home||104,159||5.5%||2,170,546||9.2%||2,828,758||10.7%|
|Underground, metro, light rail, tram||44,271||2.3%||706,210||3.0%||993,116||3.7%|
|Bus, minibus, coach||185,993||9.8%||1,741,929||7.4%||1,897,786||7.2%|
|Motor cycle, scooter or moped||30,430||1.6%||257,463||1.1%||207,340||0.8%|
|Driving a car or van||1,013,774||53.6%||13,013,689||55.2%||14,382,053||54.2%|
|Passenger in a car or van||144,554||7.6%||1,472,021||6.3%||1,318,172||5.0%|
|Taxi or minicab||121,415||0.5%||126,515||0.5%|
-  1991 SWS data were taken from a 10% sample of forms
However, what these data don’t tell us is the extent to which this is the same group of people. We might imagine that some people carry on travelling to work by cycle, some stop, and some are new cycle commuters. But how many people are there in each of those categories? To answer that, we can use the ONS Longitudinal Study (LS). The LS includes linked data from the 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001 Censuses. The linked sample from the 2011 Census is currently under going beta testing and we expect that researchers will be able to use the data towards the end of this year (assuming that no problems are identified in the beta test projects).
Table 2 is a matrix produced from the LS, showing sample members’ method of travel to work at two points: 1991 and 2001. As mentioned above, data from the 2011 Census will be added to the LS and available for research use later this year. Figures for ‘Other’ methods of travel have been excluded from both years, in order to avoid problems with small values (values beneath 10 cannot be released from the LS) – as can be seen from Table 1, ‘Other’ accounts for a very small proportion of all people.It ma be noted that ‘taxi’ existed as a potential answer in 2001, but not in 1991. For consistency, similar labels to those used in Table 1 have been retained.
|Method of travel to work 1991|
|Method of travel to work 2001||Works at / from home||Tube / metro / light rail||Train||Bus / minibus / coach||Motorcycle / scooter||Car/van driver||Car/van passenger||Bicycle||On foot||TOTAL|
|Works at / from home||2,860||253||461||581||118||8,053||585||267||926||14,104|
|Tube / metro / light rail||37||918||258||272||15||458||76||33||156||2,223|
|Bus / minibus / coach||105||194||261||2,902||78||1,083||717||170||1,129||6,639|
|Motorcycle / scooter||29||28||50||60||373||644||70||104||104||1,462|
|Taxi / minicab||16||13||20||85||11||213||83||11||72||524|
Each row shows a method of travel to work in 2001, whilst each column shows a method of travel in 1991. Shown below each raw value is a column percentage – thus, in the top left cell, we can see that 2,860 sample members worked from home in both 1991 and 2001, and they accounted for 49% of the 1991 total.
Row and column totals show us the totals for each mode of transport. So, looking at row totals, we can see for example that 83,414 sample members reported in the 2001 Census that they used a car to travel to work. The LS is a roughly 1% sample of the population of England and Wales, so this suggests a population total of about 8.34 million. Why is this so different to the figure of 13 million shown in Table 1? The answer lies in the way that the sample for Table 2 has been drawn: the sample is of people who were present (and traced, allowing linkage to be done) at both the 1991 and 2001 Censuses, and in work at both times (in order to have a mode of travel to work). Clearly this excludes a significant number of people: those who entered or left England and Wales during the 1990s, people who were not in work – either through unemployment or through age related reasons – at either point in time, and those who died during the comparison period. However, this sample allows a relatively straightforward longitudinal comparison of methods of travel to work. In a more detailed analysis, we would want to consider some of the effects of the way in which the sample has been drawn. There are also a variety of other considerations: we have worried in this Table about the effects of changes in residential location, or of changes in workplace location. Clearly, either of these might change the potential for different sorts of commuting (assuming that, unlike Bradley Wiggins or Chris Froome, most people are unlikely to cycle long distances and across mountain passes at the drop of a hat).
In Table 2, the figures for cycling in 1991 and 2001 have been highlighted. We can see that there were 4,317 sample members in 1991 who travelled to work by bike in 1991, and 3,482 in 2001. Thus, apparently, there is a drop in the propensity to cycle, as also indicated in Table 1. This drop may also be an artefact of the way that the sample for the Table was constructed. Of those 4,317 sample members who cycled to work in 1991, we can see at the intersection of the highlighted row and column that 1,231 sample members cycled at both time points. These account for 28.5% of the 1991 count. To put this another way: 71.5% of those who were cycling to work in 1991 were no longer cycling in 2001. The diagonal set of cells outlined in red are those cases where sample members used the same more of transport at both times. Without deeper analysis, we do not know whether they were travelling between the same locations or not. We can see the highest ‘retention rate’ was for car driving: 78.3% of drivers in 1991 were still driving in 2001, whilst the lowest (17.3%) was for those travelling by motorcycle.
The Table allows us to see to which modes they had switched, by looking at the rest of the ‘1991’ column. The most common mode was driving a car. This accounted for 41.4% of all of the 1991 cycling cohort (or, 57.9% of all cyclists who had changed to a mode other than cycling). The next most common method (apart from cycling) in 2001 for those who had cycled in 1991 was walking – accounting for 9.5% of the 1991 cycling cohort (or, 13.3% of all those that had switched to another mode).
As described above, the sample members’ circumstances will have changed in a variety of ways over ten years, including changes of job and changes in residential and workplace locations. A more detailed analysis would explore these dimensions, as well as the age and gender aspects of those who have kept on cycling and those that have switched to another form of transport.
Whilst a large proportion of members who cycled to work in 1991 were using another form of transport by 2001, that is only part of the story. There were also a total of 2,251 persons who cycled to work in 2001, but who had not been cycling in 1991. If we would like to increase the numbers of people who engage in active commuting, then this in an interesting group to study: it might give us clues about those groups for whom more people could be encouraged to take up cycling. So, what mode of transport had these people previously used? Table 2 shows us absolute numbers, and we can see that the largest group of new cyclists (1,052 sample members) had previously been car drivers. However, that observation may be misleading: car driving accounts for the largest proportion of all commuters, and thus it is unsurprising that they made the largest absolute
|Method of travel to work 1991|
|Method of travel to work 2001||Works at / from home||Tube / metro / light rail||Train||Bus / minibus / coach||Motorcycle / scooter||Car/van driver||Car/van passenger||On foot||TOTAL|
Car drivers remain the largest contributers to the ‘cyclist switcher’ category, but the Table highlights other sources – the second most common group walked in 1991 (and so were already engaged in active commuting), and the third most common group were those that had travelled by bus in 1991.
So, had the story changed by 2011? Researchers will be able to explore this and other topics when the 2011 sample has been added to the LS. If you are interested in carrying out research, please see the CeLSIUS ‘step-by-step’ guide to forming a research question, and submitting an application.
The permission of the Office for National Statistics to use the Longitudinal Study is gratefully acknowledged, as is the help provided by staff of the Centre for Longitudinal Study Information & User Support (CeLSIUS). CeLSIUS is supported by the ESRC Census of Population Programme (Award Ref: ES/K000365/1). The authors alone are responsible for the interpretation of the data.
- Table 1
- Tables 2 and 3
- Source: ONS Longitudinal Study; clearance number 30041
- Census output is Crown copyright and is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen’s Printer for Scotland.