Ealing Cycling Campaign
TVU 'Cycle Challenge Project'

The TVU "Cycle Challenge Project" Cycling and Travel Survey

Simon Batterbury

Survey: January 1997. This document: January 1999

In early 1996, Ealing Cycling Campaign. along the Transport Group within Ealing's Local Agenda 21 process, Thames valley university and Ealing Council were awarded 19,250 to conduct a major project to increase awareness of transport issues and to improve access and parking at Thames Valley University in the heart of Ealing. The project was put together on the initiative of ECC and Local Agenda 21 member Error! Bookmark not defined.. The project was entitled "Green Commuting: Promoting Bicycle Use at the Urban University" and it was funded by the "Cycle Challenge Initiative", a one-off Government grant scheme initiated by Stephen Norris, administered by the Driver Information and Traffic Management Division of the Department of Transport (Now the Dept of Environment,Transport and the Regions.). The project is mentioned briefly Error! Bookmark not defined. on their web site.

The initial project statement:

"This Cycle Challenge proposal is involves a range of community organisations and public bodies in the London Borough of Ealing, in a pilot scheme encouraging a modal shift by those travelling to work and to study at Thames Valley University, a major employer in the Borough. The scheme focusses on a package of measures including workshops, training, security, competitions, research and publicity. The project is innovative in the range of measures which will be used to promote cycling to work and study, and benefits from wide community support in the busy suburban centre surrounding the university campus. It forms a coherent 'package' of measures to promote bicycle use. By encouraging a modal shift to cycling at a large university committed to 'greening' its campuses, and by monitoring the effectiveness of these measures, the project responds to the call for community, private and public partnerships to help manage the shift to sustainable urban transportation as called for in the local Agenda 21 planning process."

The project met the majority of these ambitious goals. TVU staff were given an allowance for using their bikes on official business. Many cycle racks were installed around campus in convenient locations, sometimes replacing old and insecure facilities. Volunteers offered bike repair workshops. A competition was held in which fifteen free mountain bikes were given away. Sir George Young, then Secretary of State for Transport, attended an event in January 1997 where the project was presented and there were inspiring talks by Danny Metzger of Ealing Council, Mayer Hillman of the Policy Studies Institute ( a veteran transport campaigner) and Error! Bookmark not defined., a specialist on local environmental issues at Brunel University. Lastly, a questionnaire of travel habits was administered. The results are reproduced here since they are of general interest.

Since this project was completed, relations between the University and the local community worsened considerably. We had hoped to reach agreement between the warring parties that cycling and alternative transport modes could reduce the heavy parking pressures being experienced by residents of the streets surrounding the university. In general, we supported the local residents' view that it was appropriate to introduce a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) in these streets, given the heavy volume of traffic generated by - particularly - TVU students attending classes or social events. A CPZ was proposed in 1997, and enacted in 1998.

The TVU case is a classic example of a 'locational conflict' in which transport was deeply implicated. It is possible to appreciate the position of the local residents, who wished to avoid inconvenience near their (mainly, very expensive) homes. At the same time, should the 'newcomer' - a new University with a 'populist' agenda and providing education for many Borough residents - suffer? Following the resignation of TVU's Vice-Chancellor and the restructuring of the university under new leadership in late 1998, we are sure these issues have not fully been put to rest. We would like to think that the new cycle racks made a small contribution to the needs of staff and students at the University - and made a few people think about the impacts of their travel and commuting.

The Survey

At the end of academic year 1995-6, a survey of travel behaviour and awareness of transport issues was made at Thames Valley University. The survey formed part of the Cycle Challenge project, which has been responsible for putting in new cycle racks around the Ealing campuses and generally raising the profile of cycling as a method of sustainable and non-polluting way to travel. It was a project undertaken jointly with local community groups, notably the Local Agenda 21 Transport Group and the Ealing Cycle Campaign. The survey, designed by Andy Dunnett and Simon Batterbury, was distributed to staff by means of the TVU Bulletin, and to students via the Students' Union and the main buildings. Several first year classes undergraduate were also encouraged to fill in the questionnaire. It also included a competition to win one of 15 free bicycles. Analysis was carried out by Simon Batterbury and Judith Firth at Brunel University using STATGRAPHICS software.

A total of 326 people (145 staff and 178 students) responded to the questionnaire, and all but three of these were analysed. Some 43% of respondents were male, and 57% were female. (Table1)

Table 1 The survey profile












Don't know (!)








Age breakdown







36-45 21





The most frequently chosen mode of commuter travel by the survey respondents was driving their own car (33% always use a car, and 29% usually use one, expressed as a percentage of all modes used). Walking was the second most frequently chosen mode with 18% always walking and 20% 'usually'. Looking at the balance between staff and students, the survey showed that a far higher percentage of staff than of students always drive to campus (57%, as a percentage of all responses to the question). Some 45% of staff said they usually drive (as a percentage of all responses). By comparison some 23% of students said they always drive, and 18% usually come by car. (Table 2)

What is the status of cycling as a mode of transport at TVU? Apparently, quite a high percentage of people already choose to cycle. We know that, in Ealing Borough, around 3% of the working population choose to cycle to work (1991 Census figures). The percentage cycling in our survey was 8% (who always cycle) and 14% (who usually cycle). For the staff alone, 11% always cycle and 20% said they usually cycle. A smaller percentage of students seem to use bikes regularly (6% always, 7% usually). However a more comprehensive sample might show lower rates than this, since we are sure that a disproportionate percentage of keen cyclists took the time to fill out our questionnaire.

These findings, although not hard and fast by any means, suggest that although a significant majority of the staff surveyed do come by car and thus contribute to the university's acute parking problems, a smaller percentage do cycle, at least sometimes. A smaller percentage of students come by car than among the staff, but, disappointingly, only a small number choose to cycle. Student travel is spread between many modes of which car, bus, walking and tube are most commonly used. Students are doubtless aware of the University's excellent position in relation to public transport, and may choose it over motoring partly for cost reasons.

Average travel distances to the University were collected. We know TVU is a 'local' university, serving the community in West London. But how far or for how long do people travel? The survey showed that students tend to have shorter travel distances to campus than staff - many do indeed live close to Ealing. It is remarkable that the highest percentage of car drivers come from under five miles away from the campus - generally regarded as a distance easy to make by bicycle, and something to note for the future. If the University is drawing on a local base of students and most staff also live quite close, would the impact of lower car use really be keenly felt? Would a survey looking more carefully at driving behaviour show that driving is a matter of convenience, and is not necessitated by long distances or impossible public transport? According to our data some 70% of all cyclists surveyed travel less than five miles, and yet a handful do come in from much further away. Some staff involved in the Cycle Challenge project regularly commute from 10-20 miles away, through London traffic or by combining with a train journey.

Table 2 Travel distance to TVU from home, one way

  All modes %




% of all car drivers

% of all cyclists

Under 1

8 7 - 14




2.5-4.99 26 25 25


5-9.99 13


17 10
10-14.99 17 13 21 12
15-19.99 4 7


20-29.99 3 3 2


30-34.99 3 2 5 2
35+ 4 2 2 0
N= 135


120 51

Average journey times to TVU revealed that only ten percent of students and fifteen percent of staff have daily one-way travel times of under ten minutes. Over 75% of staff and students travel for between ten and sixty minutes to campus, and we know from the above tables that the majority spend this time in a car. (Table 3)

Table 3 - Journey times to campus

  % of Staff

% of Students

% of all respondents

0-10 minutes


10 12
11-20 minutes 26 25 26
21-40 minutes



41-60 minutes 18 20 19
Over an hour 7 16






For those respondents who do not cycle regularly to TVU, we asked them to name the factors that deter them from doing so. The most important reason given, particularly for women, was the "lack of a bicycle" (easily solved!), followed by excessive distances between home and the university.

Table 4 - Top five reasons deemed very important deterrent to cycling in

  % of women replying % of men replying % of all replying N=
Don't have a bike 55 45 51 251
Live too far to cycle 30 38 33 254
London cycling too dangerous 30 30


Risk of theft 28 30 29 248
Can't carry heavy bags


26 29 250
You get wet when rains 27 29 28 254

multiple replies possible - will not sum to 100

We then asked what the single most important step by TVU, as major employer, should be to get people to use bicycles. Students favoured the provision of secondhand bikes and more cycle lanes, while staff stressed security and parking provision and cycle lanes. The project has subsequently been able to invest several thousand pounds in new cycle racks and better access for cyclists, addressing the security and parking concerns. Rather than scour the area for large quantities of secondhand bikes for sale, we offered 15 machines to our competition winners, and we publicised local bike shops. From 1997-1998 (before moving these to the Log Cabin at Northfields Tube Station) we held regular bike repair workshops on the campus. Many staff mentioned the need for showers as part of a better cycling environment, and this is one area where the Estates Department should be strongly encouraged to devote resources.

Table 6 - Single most important step that TVU could do to encourage cycling (by people in general, and you - responses amalgamated)


students %

staff %
Provide Secondhand bikes 21 8
More cycles lanes 16 19
Education 14 10
More cycle parking 13 7
Loan schemes 10 8
Better Security 4 7
Parking/security 9 19
Provide me a bike! 9 3
Stress fitness issues 3 0
Provide showers 0 15
Bike safety 0 1
Aid people financially 0 2
Other 1 1



We also asked how the money available from the Cycle Challenge grant should be spent at TVU. A range of suggestions were offered. Over 79% of respondents wished the money to be spent on some combination of parking and security on campus.

Table 7 How should Cycle Challenge money be spent?

  all respondents %
Bike parking/security 52
Parking 17
Security 10
More cycles Lanes 8
provide showers 4
Loan schemes 3


bike safety 2
Provide Secondhand bikes 2
Increase difficulty of car parking 1

Better bike access


In order to assess whether cycling was identified with negative or positive characterisitics by the staff and students, and whether efforts should be made to raise its profile, the respondents were asked to circle any number of key words to apply to people who already cycle to TVU. The results were very encouraging since 78% thought cyclists were "fit", 55% "sporty" and 53% "environmentalists" (I assume this word is used in a positive way!). Fewer, however, viewed cyclists as "attractive" (11%) but highly negative terms such as "silly", "irresponsible" and "immature" were scarcely mentioned at all.

Table 8 Terms identified with people who cycle to TVU (raw numbers)

  Staff students male female
fit 105 136 91 140
sporty 57 112 57 104
environmentalists 76 88 65 89
sensible 75 69 66 71
well-meaning 40 39 47 29
vulnerable 47 23 39 31
young 19 47 26 34
carefree 12 29 13 26
attractive 12 21 16 15
thrifty 26 1 18 24
impoverished 11 8 14 5
eccentric 8 7 9 6
annoying - - 5 10
crafty 2 5 5 2
silly 0 3 1 2
irresponsible 0 2 2 0
immature 0 2 1 1
N= 142 166 132 165

What did the Cycle Challenge project do?

The questionnaire raised real concerns about transport issues at the University. While some readers will already be aware that there is a "car parking problem" in the car parks and surrounding streets, even this modest survey pinpoints the cause; a preference for driving to work among both students and (particularly) staff. The fact that TVU has gained a Cycle Challenge grant does not mean that draconian measures are in store to force up the numbers of staff biking into work! The project, and this small survey, can only highlight the major issues and show that, while confilict over transport and land use are perhaps inevitable in and around the University, there are alternatives. Cycling has the advantage of being cheap, healthy and enjoyable, while commuting by car is none of these.

From April 1996 until the end of 1997, a Cycle Challenge steering group met regularly and open meetings (coordinated by Andrew Ward, Corporate Relations) were held every month to debate the practical measures that the University, as major employer in a busy suburb, can take to address transport 'impact'. Participation in the meetings has not been as high as we would have liked, and some planned activities have fallen behind schedule since we lack people to help carry them out.

Achievments were modest rather than impressive.....

* New metal bike racks have been installed at St Marys, Westel, University and Vestry Houses.

* A Bike repair and postcoding session was held on Ealing Green as part of National Bike Week, June 1996. Further workshops were held in June 1997, and at TVU through until the Spring of 1998 when their location was changed. These were coordinated by volunteers from the Ealing Cycling Campaign. ECC Error! Bookmark not defined. on a monthly basis.

* Mileage allowance for bicycles of 5p per mile was agreed by the Finance Department. (TVU people: Remember to submit a mileage claim next time you use a bike on University business; sufficient claims and the rate may be increased)

* At Westel House, the undercover parking area was converted to cycle parking and seating.

* Kerb treatments and bollards have been installed at St Marys to permit cyclists and disabled access to the rear of the buildings.

* The questionnaire was issued and received 326 replies.

* Discussions were held about imposing car parking charges on university property within the next 2 years

* Fifteen new bicycles have been awarded to winners of the Cycle Challenge competition.

In addition, some activities were delayed or cancelled due to lack of support.....

* The design and printing of an information leaflet on cycling at TVU, with safety and route information, and copies of the Ealing Borough Cycle Map.

* curriculum activities

The project runs officially ran until April 1997, although there will hopefully be ways for TVU to continue and extend its commitment to the work started by the CC team. The rest is up to you!