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Pedal-powered people have been beating cars in commuter challenges for years

The Daily Mail’s latest assault on what it terms “the lunacy” of cycling infrastructure sees it staging commuter races between cyclists and motorists as it attempts to prove how development of dedicated infrastructure for cyclists is causing increased congestion for those who drive.

But it’s a race that cyclists have been winning for years, even before the introduction of separated infrastructure designed to increase the safety of people on two wheels – perhaps most famously in an episode of Top Gear in which Richard Hammond showed that the quickest way across London is by bike.

In its report, the Mail staged races between a cyclist and motorist in three cities – London, Manchester and Bristol – each comprising two stages, the first during morning rush hour, the return along the same route later in the morning, to see how the different modes of transport would fare when there is less traffic.

The outward leg of the race in the capital was staged between the Tower of London to Tate Britain at morning peak, a journey of 4.25 miles. Setting off at 8.13am, Harry Wallop – who penned the Mail Online report – cycled the distance in 26 minutes, while driver Katherine Clementine took 20 minutes longer.

The disparity was greater on the return leg, which began at 11.03am, Wallop completing the trip in 24 minutes, Clementine taking a little more than twice as long, at 49 minutes.

The Embankment, however, has been notorious for daytime traffic jams well before the dedicated infrastructure was announced, and across the capital the rise of private hire cars due to Uber, as well as ever-increasing deliveries of goods ordered online and increased construction traffic, have all adding to congestion.

In both Bristol, the cyclist won the first leg of the journey, but the driver was quickest on the return leg.

The 5.6-mile rush hour journey from the Clifton Suspension Bridge to Filton took Megan King 29 minutes on a bike, beating driver Beki Elmer by seven minutes.

The return trip, at 12.20pm, saw the driver win by a margin of five minutes – although the cyclist did have the handicap of having to ride the initial section uphill.

Meanwhile in Manchester, cyclist Stewart Whittingham beat motorist Andrew Chamberlain by four minutes in a 3.4-mile trip from Fallowfield to the Town Hall, Albert Square.

That was despite the slowest part of the rider’s journey being due to cycle lanes near the university being closed as new infrastructure is put in place.

In the return contest at 11.30am, again the cyclist was quickest – this time by a margin of just one minute.

In 2014, the Bristol Post ran a commuter race from the Trooper pub to its offices in Temple Way that pitched five modes of transport against each other – in the order they finished, those were riding a scooter, cycling, driving a car, running and taking the bus.

The cyclist completed the journey in 12 minutes 33 seconds, nearly eight minutes ahead of the car driver – and that includes the time he took to get changed before arriving at his desk.

Two years earlier, the Manchester Evening News held one in July 2012 that again saw a bike rider beat a motorist, in a race from Oldham Town Hall to Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens.

The most famous car vs bike challenge, however, is perhaps one staged for the cameras of BBC’s Top Gear in 2008 that pitched former presenters Richard Hammond, on a bike, Jeremy Clarkson, in a speedboat, and James May, driving a Mercedes – oh, and the Stig, on public transport – in a race across the capital from Kew to London City Airport.

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.