A new report from the Corporation of London has revealed that there are now more bicycles on the Square Mile’s streets in the morning rush hour than any other type of vehicle but says that more infrastructure for cyclists or changes in travel behaviour are needed to encourage further growth.
Published under the title Traffic In The City 2018, the report is based on traffic counts conducted at 15 locations in the City of London, the traditional home of the capital’s finance sector, in October and November last year.
Besides bicycles (including Santander Cycles and dockless hire bikes) , the types of vehicles analysed in the traffic count were private cars (including private hire vehicles and minicabs), licensed London taxi cabs, motorcycles, light goods vehicles, heavy goods vehicles and public service vehicles.
The survey, conducted at two-yearly intervals since 1999 with findings published by the Corporation of London’s Department of the Built Environment, found that “traffic volumes of all vehicular modes (except cycling) have decreased over the last two decades by at least one third."
The report said: “Some of the street capacity unlocked by these decreases in motorised vehicle traffic, alongside cycling infrastructure installations across the City, have facilitated a 292 per cent increase in cycling volumes since 1999, with an additional 24,000 cycling journeys recorded on count day in 2017,” the report said.
“These counts - taken in October and November – are representative of winter cycling rates,” it noted. “It is likely that cycling would make up an even greater share of vehicle movements during the spring and summer months.”
Rather than decreasing in a smooth line over the 20-year period, significant falls were seen in three years in particular – 2004, which followed the introduction of the Congestion Charge the previous year, in 2008, coinciding with the global recession, and 2016, the year the first segregated Cycle Superhighways were introduced.
On that final point, however, it’s worth noting that only of the locations Superhighway – where Upper Thames Street meets Southwark Bridge Road – at which the traffic counts were conducted lies on the route of the East-West Cycle Superhighway.
As a result, the survey could even understate the number of cyclists arriving in the City along that route if they turn off it beforehand.
Nevertheless, the report noted that “the number of cyclists counted during the morning peak hour has more than doubled since 2007, making it the single largest mode of transport counted on City streets from 08:00 to 09:00."
Unsurprisingly, the greatest number of cyclists were observed during the morning (08:00-10:00) and evening (17:00-19:00) rush hours, although the traffic count also found that there were more cyclists than black cabs between 19:00 and 20:00 hours.
Pedestrians, included in the traffic count for the first time in this edition of the report, and estimated to account for half of all people movements in the Square Mile, also saw spikes at the morning and evening rush hours as well as – unlike cyclists – at lunchtime.
Recognition of the growth of cycling and the importance of walking as a means of getting around the Square Mile was recognised in May last year when an 18-month trial began in which Bank Junction is closed to all vehicles except bicycles and buses on weekdays from 07:00 to 19:00.
The report’s authors did sound a cautionary note about the potential for further growth in cycling in the City, however, noting that “growth in cycling began to slow in 2012.”
They added: “While this is not a extrapolatory exercise, it does appear that the City counts have reached ‘peak cycle’ over the last five years, suggesting that significant changes in cycling infrastructure provision and/or travel behaviour may be needed to spur further growth in cycling on City streets.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.