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Overarching evaluation of cycling provision in Nottingham City

The UK government seeks to ‘kickstart a cycling revolution’ and bring down barriers for cycling in the future, with the Department for Transport committing £12bn to achieve this. It has further committed to doubling the level of cycling in England by 2025 with the stated objective of collectively addressing sustainability, obesity, the nation’s health, emissions targets, road safety and congestion. Although a range of interventions could be used to target individual items on this list, cycling is identified as one of the few activities capable of addressing them all. It has consequently been described as the ‘perfect tool’ for improving both transport sector efficiency and its broader effect on society. Cycling rates in some spheres are now rising and this bodes well for the government’s aims. However, whilst a modest growth in utility cycling has been noted in Greater London and a few other major cities, the more general situation is less encouraging. More than half of all local authorities actually experienced a decline in cycling numbers to 2011 and the UK population is less likely to cycle than most others in Europe. Further, although a recent EU transport report suggested UK cycle ownership is relatively high, it also identified that 69% of the UK population claim never to put their bikes to substantive use. The reasons for this are many and varied, and research already points to a range of situational barriers including road infrastructure, traffic volumes and cost, and factors of a less material nature, including gender, socio-economic status and culture.

Nottingham City Council are playing their part in the government’s drive to increase public cycling, especially in the field of utility cycling (e.g. ride to work) – see NNC website, ‘Improving Cycling Infrastructure’, A team at NTU Marketing and Consumer Studies Research Group led by Dr Seamus Allison have been selected as their academic partners. Projects completed, underway or planned are:

  • Survey evaluation of cyclists’ perceptions and behaviours in respect of the Western Cycle Corridor that runs from the City to Beeston via the University of Nottingham (see photo above).
  • Advice on further cycling corridor survey work (e.g. Eastern Cycling Corridor, North Cycling corridor) to begin once the Covid-19 pandemic subsides.
  • Longitudinal focus group evaluation of Adult Social Care team attitudes to NCC’s employee eBike initiative.
  • Qualitative assessments of NCC staff perceptions of eBike pool scheme for local business travel
  • Qualitative and quantitative evaluation of public users’ perceptions of eBike “try before you buy” scheme
  • Overall evaluation of cycling capacity/provision in the city of Nottingham
  • Advice on social marketing initiatives designed to enhance cycling uptake in the city

Beyond the above, the team has been appointed as evaluation partners as part of NCC’s application for £510k Tranche 1 Emergency Active Travel Fund, and its £2.1 million-pound funding application to the Department for Transport Tranche 2 Emergency Active Travel Fund.

Work thus far has resulted in a number of reports to NCC’s Transport Strategy and Cycling and Roadspace Transformation departments, and a presentation to the Greater Nottingham Cycling Development Group. Presentations on interim development work were also given at the Cycling and Society Research Group Annual Symposium in both 2019 and 2020. A manuscript for submission to the journal Transport Policy onwork concerning the Western Cycling Corridor survey is currently at first draft. This demonstrates how collaboration between a local authority and academic partners can add previously unforeseen value.