Sheffield cyclists shouldn’t be saddled by statistics

The segregated cycle track on the Embankment in London, you can call it “super” if you like, but it’s a cycle track when all is said and done, has won plenty of praise.

On the face of it, it carries a lot of cyclists and other forms of wheeled transport users. It’s also been cited to lobby decision makers to provide something similar in cities such as Sheffield.

Now I don’t know how many cyclists were riding the Embankment before the track was built but we know how many are using it now. The highly visible counters show 665,000 between opening on 19 February and 12 June this year. It’s on the way to carrying two million users in the space of a year.

Similarly the recently constructed track on Oxford Road in Manchester is near to carrying 850,000 cyclists already.

Impressive numbers, you might think.

But what of Sheffield, where we have no cycle track of that standard? I’m going to use the data from our most popular route to test out that maxim about lies and stats.

The location currently showing the most cyclists is Moore Street roundabout, close to Ecclesall Road. It counts just one of the four subways and in its first year, showed a mere 162,895 cyclists. If you know it, you won’t argue when I say it’s a narrow, awkward arrangement, not suitable for mass cycling and never going to carry huge amounts.

So how far behind are we in the steel city? Only a tad, I would suggest.

Assessing each set of data by population per head: London – population eight million; two million expected to cycle on the Embankment in 12 months.

You could say that equates to 25 per cent of the population. Before anyone points it out, yes I do know that it’s not two million different people – the bulk are likely to be your regular commuters using this as part of a wider route although, or course, there will be a fair number of visitors and tourists in there).

Greater Manchester – population 2.5 million; 850,000 expected to cycle south along Oxford Road equals 34 per cent of the population. Before anyone who has forgotten what I just said above gets on to Twitter, yes I do know that’s not 850,000 different people.

Sheffield – population 565,000. We know 162,945 cycled through one subway at Moore Street, some 29 per cent of the population. Before anyone… oh, what the heck, just say what you will.

Sounds like we’re not far behind and we’ve had nowhere near the investment enjoyed by the other two.

This is an argument for not jumping to conclusions based on one or two headlines and, perhaps more importantly, not judging any individual route or scheme until something resembling a network is constructed.

As local authorities invest in developing networks, like we propose in our Sheffield Transport Strategy, we should be in a position a decade from now to scoff at these early numbers.

By then we should be taking cycling for granted just like they do in other leading European cities that have really successful transport systems.


Paul Sullivan
Paul Sullivan
Paul retired at 18 to run a pub with his family in mid-Wales, that lasted 10 years before he got a proper job, undertaking various transport and traffic roles, with Southampton City Council. Since 2005 he has worked as Transport Planner for Sheffield City Council, focusing on behaviour change schemes.