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Gridlock alert! 1 in 3 Londoners say they will use cars more post-lockdown AND 1 in 3 they will cycle more

Think tank Centre for London says "we need to move fast to avoid a car surge" ...

A warning that “London could be heading for a new era of gridlock on our roads” has been sounded after a survey found that while one in three people living in the capital say they will cycle more once lockdown ends, the same proportion say they will use a car more.

The poll from the think tank Centre for London also found that two thirds of Londoners back new or wider cycle lanes as the city’s travel habits undergo fundamental changes due to the coronavirus pandemic

The full results of the online survey of 1,068 London residents between 15-19 May conducted by Savanta ComRes can be found here.

Centre for London’s director of strategic planning, Rob Whitehead, summarised the most important findings from the survey on Twitter.

On the think tank’s website, he outlined how travel patterns might change in three separate scenarios – if lockdown were lifted after three months, after six months, or after 12 months.

He wrote: “A third of respondents who offer an opinion say they will cycle more once lockdown is over. Unlike in the case of the tube/rail, buses and taxis, the proportion is the same across the three scenarios (34-36 per cent).

“Meanwhile half (46 per cent) of those surveyed say they think they will be more likely to go for a walk, run or cycle ride in the future, compared to before the crisis. This is particularly marked in inner London (51 per cent).

“In an almost exact mirror of cycling, around a third of those offering an opinion say they will use cars more, again without any real variation by length of lockdown.

“This presents a difficult challenge for TfL and the boroughs,” he said, “as not only do cars contribute to poor air quality and carbon emissions, but they also take up valuable road space needed to accommodate increased cycling and walking.

“This crisis is upending much of what we knew and assumed about Londoners and transport,” Whitehead continued.

“We humans are not good at predicting our future behaviour: just look at how many of us take out gym membership but fail to use the gym.

“However if our poll respondents are even halfway accurately assessing their future transport choices, London is facing an enormous challenge.

“It could be a long time before travelling by the tube or bus becomes part of daily life once more.

“And without bold thinking, London could be heading for a new era of gridlock on our roads,” he warned.

Transport for London as well as boroughs are putting emergency infrastructure in place, with the government having made £250 million available to encourage active travel, £25 million of that funding the bike maintenance voucher scheme, details of which are due to be announced this month.

As we reported yesterday, the remaining £225 million is being awarded in three tranches, and the clock is ticking for local highways authorities to put their bids in, with today being the deadline for applications for the first tranche.

> Time running out for councils on new 'pop-up' cycle lanes

With schools gradually reopening from the start of this week and many non-essential retail businesses set to resume trading a week on Monday, active travel campaigners are acutely aware that the window to bring about meaningful change in the way we move around our cities is limited.

Last month. Simon Munk, infrastructure campaigner at London Cycling Campaign, told road.cc: “Let’s be clear, the cars are coming back every day – and likely will come back more after 1 June.

> London 'in real trouble' if emergency bike lanes not built soon (+ gallery of new pop-up lane on Park Lane)

“So this is a race to enable as many people across London to cycle as much as possible, or we face the very real prospect of both overcrowded public transport where social distancing fails and more cars on our streets than we’ve seen in decades – and what comes with them: congestion, inactivity, climate-changing emissions, road danger and high pollution levels, which it is likely exacerbate the spread and mortality rate of Covid-19.

“If we don’t give people a genuine alternative to driving and fast, London is in real trouble,” he added.

The finding that one in three people in London claim they will use bikes more often for their post-lockdown travel is in line with the results of a nationwide survey conducted last month for Cycling UK.

A third of respondents to that poll said they could switch from using cars to cycling or walking when lockdown lifts – with strong support for safe routes, whether off-road or physically separated from motor vehicles.

> One in three people in UK could switch from driving to cycling or walking

Commenting on that survey, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore, said: “Our poll shows clearly that people are prepared to rethink their travel habits, using their cars less and cycling more, but only if they feel safe to do so.

“The Prime Minister said this should be the golden age for cycling, while the Transport Secretary announced major funding to encourage more people to cycle as an alternative to public transport.

“But encouragement is not enough. If the roads don’t look and feel safe to cycle, only the brave will choose to do so. If there’s space for people to cycle separated from motor vehicles, millions more will do it.

“That’s why we’re calling on local authorities to act now to install pop-up cycle lanes and widen pavements to create the space for people to walk and cycle safely while social distancing,” he added.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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