Britons roam wider but leave the bicycle at home

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Britons are travelling further and faster, relying more than ever on the car, while abandoning the bicycle and walking.

The average Briton now travels 6,511 miles within Great Britain a year - the highest figure yet recorded. Mr and Ms Average spend 15 days of the year doing 1,052 journeys at an average speed of 18.2mph, according to Government figures published yesterday. A quarter of a century ago the average speed was 12.7mph.

The latest National Travel Survey is based on the experiences of more than 10,000 families from 1993 to last year. The survey is used by the Department of Transport for forecasting traffic levels and monitoring accident rates.

"This kind of data helps because we can see, for example, that people are buying more bikes than ever but fewer are using them. Then we can launch something like last week's national cycling strategy to help to do something about it," a spokesman said.

The typical Briton makesfewer but longer journeys than five years ago, when he or she covered 6,475 miles. Shopping and other personal business account for most of the increase.

More than four-fifths of all personal travel mileage is done by car and nearly seven out of 10 households have access to one, with a subsequent drop in demand for slower modes of transport such as buses.

Mr and Ms Average walk only 200 miles a year - 3 per cent of all mileage compared to 5.3 per cent 20 years ago. City-dwellers and Scots go by foot more than people in the shires. Women aged between 16 and 29 walk most frequently of all.

Cycling accounts for only 37 miles per person per year. After particularly rapid growth in the 1980s, rail travel has now fallen back to its 1985- 86 level. Young and old women use buses most frequently.

The figures show that men of all ages travel further than women, with men aged between 30 and 59 the most frequent travellers, covering an average 11,014 miles a year. But women are catching up.

The number of women holding a driving licence rose from 29 to 55 per cent between 1975-76 and 1993-95. Eighty per cent of men had a driving licence by 1989.

Commuting is the most important single purpose for travel, accounting for as much as a fifth of all mileage. The cost per mile of going to work by public transport has risen by more than the rate of inflation, with fares on buses outside London, for example, soaring by 54 per cent in the last 10 years.

Getting to work now takes longer, up from 24 minutes five years ago to 25 minutes. The central London commuter has an even worse deal, with a typical journey time of 56 minutes, up from 54.

London is the exception to several rules. Londoners travel an average 5,100 miles a year, 22 per cent below the British average. But they walk 21 per cent further than the rest of the country and travel twice as much by rail.

The elderly do not travel as much as the middle-aged but are travelling more. They increasingly have access to a car but they drive more slowly than other groups, with a third of journeys in which a man aged between 70 and 79 is the driver completed at under 30mph.