Sport England’s report, taken from a sample of 180,000 respondents, announced that overall activity was up among women, older adults, disabled people and those with long-term health conditions.
However, participation levels for cycling fell by 98,000 (cycling for travel) and 257,000 (cycling for sport/leisure) respectively in 2017-18 compared to the year before, statistics show.
British Cycling’s policy manager Nick Chamberlin said the decline is a result of less investment in traffic-free cycling schemes, and urged the government to “redouble its efforts” to get people back on their bikes through investment and improved infrastructure.
“The decline in levels of cycling in Sport England’s latest ‘Active Lives’ survey make for uneasy reading,” said Chamberlin.
“Our ambition is to transform Britain into a great cycling nation, and while our innovative programmes – including the programme for women and city centre events – continue to go from strength to strength, it is becoming increasingly difficult to encourage those who don’t currently cycle to get on a bike.”
Chamberlin added that issues such as potholes, speed of traffic and dangerous overtaking make riding a bike in Britain “intimidating and unpleasant, especially for those trying it for the first time”.
A report by market intelligence agency Mintel compounds the Sport England figures, showing that the number of cyclists in the UK has declined for the third consecutive year.
The research, published in April, found that cyclists have fallen from 38% of the population in 2015 to 27% in 2018.
Sport England CEO Tim Hollingsworth welcomed the overall activity figures, which show 498,100 more adults (over 16-year-olds) are doing at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week compared to 2018.
However, Hollingsworth also acknowledged the problems facing some sports and socio-economic groups.
“Things are moving in the right direction, however, stubborn inequalities remain, which show that sport and physical activity still isn’t appealing to everyone,” he said.
“We urge all sport and physical activity providers to think about the practical steps they can take to make their sports more welcoming and inclusive to all.”