More people are riding bikes on London’s main roads than at any time since the turn of the Millennium, according to new figures, with Mayor Boris Johnson also hailing a fall in the number of riders killed or seriously injured (KSI) in road traffic incidents in the capital last year.
According to data released by Transport for London (TfL), the number of journeys made by bike on its own road network – which accounts for about 5 per cent of the capital’s entire road network – rose 11 per cent in 2014
It says that across all roads in London, the vast majority of which are the responsibility of the city’s boroughs, around 610,000 trips were made by bike each day in 2014 – an increase of 5 per cent over the previous 12 months.
TfL says the figures show “more people are cycling in London than at any time since records began,” although really, that should be since it began keeping its own records, with its indices based on the year 2000.
Across Great Britain as a whole, the total distance travelled by bike each year fell steeply from the 1950s until the early 1970s, and while rebounding in the following decade, remains stubbornly below the levels seen in the mid-1980s, with recovery only starting in 2007.
In 1949, Britain’s cyclists rode a total of 14.7 billion miles, but in 2011 covered less than a quarter of that distance, at 3.1 billion miles. The fall in modal share is more startling still – from 34 per cent of vehicle miles travelled at the start of that period, to 1 per cent by the end of it.
Trends in London will differ, of course – there’s little doubt that there has been an explosion in the number of cyclists over the past decade and a half that has well outstripped the national average – but to say the city now has more cyclists than ever, as some are claiming, is wide of the mark.
Commenting on today’s figures, Mayor of London Boris Johnson, said: “These figures are tremendously encouraging and will, I hope, give even more people the confidence to get on their bikes.
“Operation Safeway, which we made permanent feature last year, has already helped improve driver and cyclist behaviour. But we need to do more.
“My new Safer Lorry Scheme, coming in less than three months, will ban all lorries not fitted with safety equipment from London.
“My new segregated Cycle Superhighways, better junctions and Quietway back-street cycle routes will further protect cyclists.
“The population explosion in London cycling shows why we need all this and why we need to go still further.”
The number of KSIs among the capital’s cyclists was 432 last year, including 13 fatalities, according to separate figures released by TfL.
While that is a reduction of 12 per cent on the 2013 figure, when there were 14 deaths and 475 serious injuries, it’s higher than the figures recorded from the three years from 2004-2006.
Meanwhile the figures for injuries of all severities is the highest since 1989, the year TfL’s data begins.
That doesn’t mean of course that cycling is necessarily getting more dangerous – TfL claims that one bicycle journey in every 513,000 in 2014 resulted in the rider being killed or seriously injured, beating the previous best on record of one journey in every 434,000 in 2006.
That assumes, however, that assessments of the number of trips made, or distance being covered, are accurate, but as this post on the London Transport Data blog makes clear, that’s far from an exact science.
Today’s figures have been accompanied by a major survey into Attitudes towards Cycling among Londoners, which revealed among other things that people riding bikes feel increasingly safe.
Leon Daniels, director of surface transport at TfL, said: “The increase in people cycling on the TfL Road Network, as well as the new insights into why people are cycling in London, is proof that the huge investment we are making in London is helping to encourage more people to take to two wheels.
“With new cycle routes, better cycle parking and easier access to Santander Cycles all taking place in 2015, we are confident that the next 12 months will see cycling levels rise even higher and help London maintain its place as a world-class cycling city,” he added.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.