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Determinants Health In All Policies Public Health

Folk don’t cycle because it’s too hilly

Oft heard myth. It’s wrong. Here’s why

Found it

Not quite as neat a graph as I’d hoped for but still good one

see this report on Govt take on cycle stats. p14 is the business end.

key points:

·         No relationship between walking and topography (when looking at extremes of elevation) – slight neg relationship between walking for utility (commuting) and being hilly (more hilly, less walking).

·         Slight negative relationship between cycling for utility and topography – but very slight (even smaller than walking) – explains about 7% of the variation.

To my mind this significantly debunks the argument that “hilliness is the reasons why is too hilly and that’s why no one walks/cycles”

the key point in the report is this one:

“The same, but weaker, negative correlation exists for cycling between utility purposes and elevation range however there is no relationship between terrain levels and cycling for recreational purposes.

Chart 21: Prediction of how much elevation affects walking and cycling rates (at least once a month) in local authorities: England, 2014/15

  • Elevation 17%
  • Other factors 83%
  • Elevation 11%
  • Other factors 89%

“It is important to point out that the scale of these relationships, where they exist, are not particularly strong and there are many other factors that influence walking and cycling levels. A regression analysis revealed that elevation explained 17% and 11% of the patterns in recreational and utility walking levels across local authorities. This means that 83% of recreational walking and 89% of utility walking patterns are explained by other factors.”

Statistical / geek speak explanation – looking at the variability of % trips taken by bike and the then correlation between a measure of hilliness, the “hilliness” of places explains 17% of the variation. Using a regression analysis for this simple correlation, 17% is close to meaningless. Given the type of stats involved there’s a far greater chance that any variation is chance / due to other factors than topography.

Geek speak over. Plain language – hilliness isn’t a factor in % trips taken by bike

Three further points

·         Rise of  the ebike will make this less of an issue.

·         wherever there are hills, there are valleys. In Sheffield we have some well populated valleys. Getting 20% of these people getting around by active travel will make a significant difference.

·         the cycling fallacies website is good for busting myths about cycling. with links to various evidences/articles.

This is also interesting/useful – Barriers to cycling mean doing more, not less – Barriers being things like weather, culture, and hilliness

If we think more cycling is desirable, but there are obstacles to participation, then those obstacles themselves should not be seized upon as reasons for inaction. On the contrary; they should compel us to adopt even higher standards, to make cycling as comfortable, safe and desirable a mode of transport as possible.’

The evidence is clear, hilliness is not an evidential reason for lack of cycling.

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