Cycles of deprivation in some UK regions

When it comes to cycling, different regions in the UK have varying attitudes. That is the finding of a new study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, which showed the activity is perceived vastly differently depending on the city.

Dr Rachel Aldred of the University of East London discovered that while some metropolises look upon the pursuit as a traditional form of transport, others believe it to be a new subculture.

According to the survey, cycling is considered an everyday activity in Hull and Cambridge, where bikes have been used by residents for many years because it makes sense for their journey.

In Hackney and Bristol, however, the pastime is associated more with fashion and social events rather than practical necessities.

Dr Aldred stated: "Some UK cities have a long-standing tradition of cycling as a means of transport, while in other areas cycling for an adult is a relatively new activity."

Chartered Psychologist Dr Victor Thompson comments:

"All cities will have a variety of types of people, riding different types of bike for a range of purposes. Maybe cyclists who are spotted in Cambridge are more likely to be riding a traditional bike to and from work or college. I imagine that this is certainly consistent with our images of Cambridge and bikes there today and over previous decades. For Hackney, an area that is thought of as trendy by many, and part of a larger city, many making the journeys by bike would be trendier on a trendier bike. 

"These beliefs can have a bearing on the take-up of cycling - an important activity for physical and psychological wellbeing. If you live in Hackney, you may be motivated to take up cycling to join the trendy group, to show that you are trendy. However, if you are definitely not a trendy and wouldn't want to be associated with that group, then you may be less persuaded by the cycling mass in your area. The alternative, is to buy a different bike, one that is less trendy, more in line with another group identity or your own individualism. 

"In Cambridge the beliefs about cycling then work in a different way. Maybe there is some perceived pressure from the group or locals to buy get a bike, which is traditional (e.g. black or brown rather than vibrant), and ride it to and from work, college, the shops et cetera.

Beliefs about reasons for cycling among people we know or others we don't in our local area will go some way to shape our decisions to cycle. This decision will also be influenced by our need to conform or rebel against the group norm and other individual reasons to cycle or not."