Reports & Insights

Sports Marketing Surveys welcomes new government campaign to promote a walking and cycling revolution.

Sports Marketing Surveys welcomes new government campaign to promote a walking and cycling revolution.

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Reports & Insights

On the 28th July, Boris Johnson officially launched the British Government’s £2bn investment in cycling and walking, giving clarity on how funds will be allocated. The active travel vision commits to thousands of miles of new protected bike lanes, adult and junior cycle lessons, and also promises cycling on prescription by the NHS. The launch coincided with the release of 50,000 bike repair vouchers, a scheme similar to the one operated in France since May. The proposals are the next step in delivering the British government’s vision, following the first announcement in May of the unprecedented funding.


Sports Marketing Surveys (SMS) has a number of benchmarks which will serve as valuable comparators as the industry grows. Since the initial announcement in May, SMS has been monitoring the various means of commuting to work across the UK. Although the nationally representative figures do show a trickle back to the office and on-site work, the majority of respondents continue to work from home, meaning that it is too early to identify any sea change in the proportion cycling and walking to work. What the figures will offer is a solid benchmark for the initial post-pandemic period, one against which future marks can be compared as the government’s plans turn from vision into reality. At present the figures suggest a weekly proportion of up to 7 of those who are travelling for work doing so by bike, consistent with the top end of estimates for before the pandemic.


As the public health climate evolves, this could begin to shift. For one thing pre-Covid cycling commuters tend to be younger people living in urban areas or slightly older white-collar workers incorporating cycling as part of a commute in tandem with public transport. However, as the lockdown in the UK eases, it is precisely these groups who are finding that office presence, and therefore commuting, is not currently required. Metropolitan office employers have largely been the group best able to accommodate working from home. Research from The Centre for Cities corroborates this, with footfall weakest in major metropolitan areas with a substantial office footprint, including London, Manchester and Liverpool.

However, the government plans offer hope of an even greater potential shift, by addressing, through greater safety, one of the most powerful barriers to cycling, and doing so at precisely the same moment as the public health situation encourages people to move towards personal rather than public transport, and from passive to active travel.


In fact, the data suggests that consumers have cottoned on to the cycling revolution before the government. Figures from The Bicycle Association’s Market Data Service, powered by SMS, show a 63% rise in year on year sales value between April and June, driven strongly by bikes under £1,000. E-bike sales have increased by nearly 150% year on year in the same three month period. As commuting starts to loom large in the Autumn and into 2021, and especially as the government commitment to cycling translates to more regular and more positive coverage in the national press, the surge could be set to continue.


Marc Anderman, who re-joined SMS in 2020 to lead its cycling business team comments: “The opportunity that cycling has is nothing short of colossal. Consumer demand, environmental and public health benefits, and government support are all coming together to highlight the advantages and benefits of cycling. Most leisure pursuits would be delighted to tick one or two of those boxes, to have all three is as rare as it is incredibly exciting.”


“In the shifting landscape for consumer demand and stock availability, The Market Data Service is an unparalleled tool that allows brands, retailers, and distributors to understand not just what their current market is, but what their potential market could be. However, like any tool, it benefits most when it is used in conjunction with other approaches. Understanding consumer behaviour patterns, helping local authorities assess exactly how best to spend their new cycling budgets, exploring the ancillary benefits that the investment brings to individual health and wellbeing as well as better cities and communities – all this is research that is vital and achievable.”


The investment in cycling is certainly without parallel and represents a hugely welcome change of direction. As recently as 2019, the Conservative manifesto had promised only £70m of cycling funding per year, to the concern of campaigners. Congratulations must therefore go to the cycling industry for making such a compelling case for the role of bikes and e-bikes in the new normal. SMS partner the Bicycle Association (BA) had lobbied consistently for a national e-bike purchase incentive programme. The BA also proposed a £50 voucher repair scheme in early May.


Steve Garidis, Executive Director of the Bicycle Association, has been leading the organisation’s advocacy programme. “The BA has been able to provide stakeholders in government, local authorities, and transport organisations with accurate and reliable figures from the Market Data Service. This is now the most authoritative source of data on the UK cycling market. Having detailed data hugely enhanced the BA’s credibility as we lobbied for a national e-bike incentive scheme, and it will be invaluable for our advocacy work going forwards.”


The announcement brings Britain into line with the outstanding efforts of so many bodies and governments across Europe. The ECF’s Covid-19 cycling measures tracker has recorded over 2000km of planned pro-cycling corona measures, with over 1,000 already implemented. The measures, both in Britain and abroad, give hope that countries may go further still. A 2016 UN report recommended that countries allocate 20% of their transport budgets to active travel.


Sports Marketing Surveys is a specialist research agency which supports some of the major brands, retailers, distributors and federations in the cycling industry. SMS is a founding member of Cycling Industries Europe (CIE) and a member of its market data expert group. In the UK it is The Bicycle Association’s partner for the Market Data Service, which currently records over 700,000 individual products at SKU level. SMS also operates a full suite of qualitative and quantitative research approaches. To discuss how cycling research can support your business, please contact

Total Cycling Sales for April-June 2020 are up 63% year on year

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