Census 2011 – what it all means for cycling in Newcastle

At our Members Meeting in June, Neil Murphy from Beyond Green shed light on the Census 2011 data and the changes in commuting patterns between 2001 and 2011 in Newcastle. You may remember the census question “What’s your main method of travel to work?”… well, here’s the findings.

First of all, we all heard about the large growth in walking and cycling. Well, let’s be wary as there is a difference. We’re starting from such a low, nearly undetectable, base that an increase from a total bike modal share of 2% to (now nearly) 3% in Newcastle is far from being revolutionary (though it does constitute a 50% rise). So in simple terms, in Newcastle, a city with a population of 280,000, there are 8,400 people cycling to work. Maybe say “Hello” and give a friendly wave to them when you bike past, as they might well be a member of the Newcastle Cycling Campaign at a chance of 1 in 10.

And not to forget that our own twin town Groningen has a cycling modal share of knocking on 60% of all journeys, or that Newcastle aims for a share of 20% by 2020. Some way to go. Better get on with building some cycleway suitable for all then!

Fenham, Gosforth, Heaton, Jesmond, are the areas showing the highest cycling mode share. Kinda makes sense as they are hugging the city centre, but these areas should do much better than that when it comes to sustainable travel given accessibility and public transport provision. [Graph 1 below]

Car ownership and use continues to rise, especially in the outer west suburbs, but over 40% of households in Newcastle do not have access to a car/van. Car ownership is a funny old thing as it can be looked at in two ways. It can be seen as a measure of affordability and a measure of reduced car-dependency ie a liveable city. For Newcastle, Councillors should take note that car availability overall is low. To complete the picture and understand the “irreducible core” of car-dependency, we will need socio-economic, distance and destination data. [Graph 2 below]

Compared to the national average of bike modal share, Newcastle just about matches that. The Northeast average we exceed – so, regionally, we are doing okay. As for vehicle availability Newcastle outstrips national and regional averages. Our politicians take note – Newcastle is less car-dependent than you may think and better walking, cycling and PT provision is badly needed! And not just for social reasons but for fairness and fitness (new buzz words: public health and wellbeing) too.

Very little has changed since 2001 [Graph 3].

It’s time we get the move on.

Newcastle bike modal share
Graph 1 – Bike modal share

Newcastle - vehicle availability
Graph 2 – Vehicle availability for households

Newcastle - few changes since 2001
Graph 3 – Very little change since 2001