Cycling levels continue to rise in the capital

Recent data suggests Londoners have been increasingly opting for their bike to make essential trips and for exercise, despite a significant drop in the number of journeys being made over the past year as people worked from home and were only able to travel for legally-permitted reasons.

The latest cycle count data available from Transport for London (TfL) reveals that cycling levels increased in both inner and outer London last year, with the latter seeing a 22 percent rise in the number of people out on their bikes compared to 2019. Inner London, by comparison, saw a seven percent increase in cycling levels throughout the year.

These increases, particularly in outer London, could suggest that the types of journeys Londoners are making may be changing, as people increasingly look to their bikes as a means to get around their local area, visit their local high streets, and for exercise. In fact, those who walk, cycle or use public transport to visit their local high street do so more frequently and spend up to 40 percent more than those who travel by car, the data indicates.

Whether we will see a collective revert back to the car or other means of public transport as the pandemic recedes still remains to be seen, however.

E-bikes are also proving popular in the capital, with data from urban mobility firm Lime reporting a 127 percent uptake in e-bike rides between March and October 2020. Other bike share operators are also experiencing a boost in numbers, with TfL’s own Santander Cycles scheme celebrating its 100 millionth journey last month, following record-breaking hire numbers in February.

In line with the upward trend in cycling levels has been an increase in cycle infrastructure provision, as London Mayor Sadiq Khan and TfL sought to fast-track the transformation of the capital’s roads last year with new cycle lanes and temporary bike routes as part of the Government’s Streetspace programme.

So far, the programme has resulted in nearly 90 kilometres of cycle tracks, around 100 new ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’, and over 300 new School Streets.

The initiative promised that clean, green, and sustainable travel, such as cycling, would be “at the heart of London’s recovery” from the pandemic, although some boroughs have already scrapped such measures, including Kensington and Chelsea and Harrow, citing concerns around congestion and apparent unpopularity among residents.

A study by researchers from Imperial College London, however, found that London’s Cycle Superhighway lanes do not negatively impact traffic speed but can in fact be an “effective intervention” in cities like London that are heavily affected by congestion.

For now, though, the majority of Londoners are able to take advantage of additional allocated funding to improve walking and cycling infrastructure in the capital, although as we mentioned in our analysis of last year’s £2 billion investment in cycling by the government, it is yet to be seen whether these funds will indeed create lasting change and therefore positively impact upon London’s cycling trends in the years to come.

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