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minitrams - the nadir of cycling in Britain?

Books + Ideas, — March 2019

I suggest that 1981 was the absolute nadir of utility cycling in Britain. As evidence for that I present, courtesy of Graham Smith, this diagram from the December 5, 1981 issue of the The Economist.


What transport mode could possibly fill in the 0.3 to 3 mile gap between walking and driving? Maybe minitrams?

This also gets it wrong by putting "Car" where it should have "Bus", but that's another story.

Note: Liz Batty has pointed me at the MINITRAM planning society.

For a real-life example of modal share at different distances, if cycling is actually enabled, here's a chart of data from Amsterdam in 2012 (source "Traffic Planning in Amsterdam", via Drawing Rings). There have been some major improvements in Amsterdam since 2012, most obviously around the railway station, so the modal share of cycling is likely even higher now.

Cycling is the majority choice from 1 to 5km (3 miles), and the plurality choice up to 7.5km (5 miles). And the boom in e-bike numbers is likely to increase the distances people are prepared to cycle.


  1. Fantastic as usual, Danny. I can't work out the stat for car mode share for all journeys under 5 km. Certainly under 20% !

    Comment by Scott — March 2019
  2. There's no absolute scale on the bars, so we have no idea (to take one example) how many 2.5-3.7km trips there are compared to 1-2.5km ones. So it's not possible to work out the modal split for e.g. 1-5km distances.

    Comment by danny — March 2019

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