Transport / Monday, 24 April, 2017

What does the Propensity to Cycle Tool tell us about Leeds?

Feature image: An artist’s impression of what York Road in Leeds could look like in the future with more supportive cycling infrastructure and policy.  Credit: James McKay (

A new online tool reveals the areas and routes in England that have the greatest potential for cycling. The Propensity to Cycle Tool (PCT), reveals high cycling potential along all of the major arterial routes into Leeds city centre – including the Leeds to Bradford cycle superhighway, which opened in June 2016.

Dr Robin Lovelace, lead developer said: “Some people have questioned whether the investment in the cycle superhighway was worth it. Our analysis shows the route has high cycling potential, seeing a five-fold increase in cycle commutes if West Yorkshire commuters took to cycling like our Dutch counterparts.

“A ‘Go Dutch’ scenario may at first appear ambitious. But the average cycle commute in the Netherlands is in fact shorter than the average cycle commute in England, so ‘Going Dutch’ means making more cycle trips, not longer ones.”

Sometimes people assume the reason for low rates of cycling is due to West Yorkshire being too hilly or the journey distances are too long. The ‘Go Dutch’ scenario uses Dutch cycling rates for English commuter trips, adjusted for both distance and hilliness – and dramatic cycling rate increases are still shown.

Under the ‘Go Dutch’ scenario, every English local authority would see at least 1 in 15 commuters cycling to work, with a third seeing cycle commuting rates of 20% or more.

In West Yorkshire, if people cycled at the same rates as people living in the Netherlands, 13% of all commuters would cycle. This would take more than 50,000 cars off the roads in West Yorkshire every morning, reducing the proportion of commuters who drive from 63% to 57%. Cycle commuting levels in West Yorkshire are currently very low at 1.3%.

In Germany, half a million electric bikes (Ebikes) are sold every year, helping a hilly country reach high levels of cycling. The same could happen here, with more supportive cycling infrastructure and policy. In hilly Leeds, for example, modelled cycling potential jumps from 15% in the ‘Go Dutch’ scenario to 25% under the Ebikes scenario.

Principal Investigator on the Propensity to Cycle Tool project Dr James Woodcock, from the Centre for Diet and Activity Research at the University of Cambridge, said: “This analysis highlights just how much cycling potential exists right across the country; not only in those areas already part of the upsurge in cycling but also in places that haven’t yet started investing.”

With this week’s Tour de Yorkshire, Yorkshire is likely to see a rise in cycling enthusiasts

Dr Lovelace said: “Sport cycling is great at getting people cycling. But our research shows that you don’t need to be Bradley Wiggins to join the cycling revolution: cycling to work and other trips in everyday life is accessible to many people in Yorkshire and beyond.”