Friday 1 February 2013

Fred's Girl on a bicycle

The Guardian newspaper has published an on-line map which shows, for all 34,753 “output areas” in England & Wales, the percentages of principal mode of travel to work as reported in the 2011 Census.  An output area appears to correspond roughly to a council ward.  I have linked here to a zoom of that map covering the Gosport and Portsmouth areas.  Unfortunately I can’t figure how to embed an image of the map here, and the link doesn’t take you, as I would have liked, to the data for cycle commuting, but you can select that, or indeed several other options, from a drop-down menu just above the map.

Update With thanks and acknowledgements to Schrodinger's Cat, over at the Alternative Department for transport Blog (referenced aside) I can now capture a screen short, so here is the image I wanted you to see.  I have left the original link so you can go to the Guardian tool and play around with it for yourself.


The data used for the map is the percentage reporting each mode of travel to work as a percentage of all respondents.  If you exclude people who don’t travel to work either because they are not in work, or because they work from home so don’t have to travel, who together account for more than a third of the population in Gosport – not an unusually high or low figure by the way – the percentages would of course increase by nearly half in terms of percentages of total commuters.

By clicking on an individual output area, you can get a more detailed table of stats for all modes of travel for that individual area.  It can be seen that some areas reach close to 10% cycling, ie close to 15% if you were to assume that the adjustment for non-commuting residents was fairly uniform across the borough.

Looking at the map pictorially, it accentuates the fact that Gosport is a serious cycling borough by UK standards. The colour representing 5-10% (of total adult population) almost exactly matches the borough’s geographical boundaries.  Two of the four <5% areas inside Gosport’s boundary can probably be explained as areas of high retired populations – whether people cycle here or not won’t be captured by a question about cycling to work.

As soon as you step outside the borough boundary, you see the percentage drop back.  With the notable exception of one ward in Hill Head, the borough of Fareham is a relative cycling desert.  The headquarters of the Office for National Statistics, which provides the data used in this map, is based not far away in Titchfield, in an area with not only the lowest scale of cycle use shown here, but also in an area with the second highest car use, and neighbouring onto an area (Whiteley) with the highest (60-75%) car use.

Just as in comparing London boroughs such as Hackney with Islington or Westminster, the contrast can largely though not of course entirely be explained by cycling policies.  Gosport has a comparatively extensive network of mediocre (I use the term here as a compliment – we are, after all, not in the Netherlands now) cycle paths, and the shortest/fastest access to Portsmouth, across the harbour, is on the harbour foot ferry which permits cycles but not – obviously – cars.

Gosport’s new local plan (currently in draft) has all the obligatory supportive noises about cycling which such documents, hundreds of pages full of statements of the bleedin’ obvious, ecofluff etc, usually contain, but it does actually sound like it might mean it, and it does contain some specific intentions about new cycle facilities in specific areas, such as the Lee-on-Solent seafront.

Now, I would have thought that the local MP for Gosport, Caroline Dinenage, would have been proud of this fact.  It is after all quite remarkable – her constituency rates as number 6 local authority in the country for cycle mode share ahead of more famous names like Bristol, and only a smidgen behind York.  Indeed the only area in the neighbouring borough which lifts itself off the floor on cycling rates is also in her constituency.

But, although I have brought the information to her attention by tweeting her a link, she has not so far had anything to say on the subject as far as I can tell.  Caroline Dinenage is not, as far I can see, everyone’s cup of tea, but what cannot be denied is that she radiates enthusiasm for and pride in her constituency, she works very hard for it, and she is a local girl at least insofar as any MP these days is local – she hails from within ten miles or so.

So, why is she not more interested in this unique quality of her constituency?

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