Bicycles have become the most popular way of travelling on the City of London’s roads, overtaking cars/PHVs (private hire vehicles) for the first time in 2022 – and are the only way of getting around the Square Mile that has returned to pre-pandemic levels.
The figures are contained in a report from the Environment Department of the City of London Corporation, ahead of a meeting next week of the Transportation & Planning Committee and a separate meeting, next month, of its Court of Common Council, the prime decision-making body of the capital’s historic financial district.
Highlighted by the Twitter user @lastnotlost, whose account is locked, the report said that there had been “relatively little change in the overall composition of vehicular traffic between 2019 and 2022, with the exception of motorcycles.”
It said that in 2019, cars/PHVS – which are counted as a single group, because the vehicles cannot be distinguished in standard traffic counts – constituted 27 per cent of all traffic on the financial district’s streets, more than any other mode of transport.
Last year, however, data from the same 30 traffic points used in 2019 showed that it was cycles that topped the list, with 27 per cent modal share during the daytime, and making up a whopping 40 per cent of traffic during the morning and evening peaks.
8:30am. 02 March 2023 - 2 degrees. We’re going to need a bigger box… pic.twitter.com/7KycM4TatV
— Rory McCarron (@CyclingLawLDN) March 2, 2023
Cycles had already been highlighted in 2019 as the most popular mode of transport on the City’s roads during rush hour in 2019, but the 2022 traffic counts – conducted, as the previous ones were, in the autumn of each year – represent the first time they have achieved the number-one spot throughout the day, and not just at peak times.
In the most recent traffic count survey, undertaken on 23 November last year and including both local and through traffic, all-day motor vehicle volumes were running at around 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, while all-day cycling volumes were at 102 per cent of those observed in 2019.
Meanwhile, the number of pedestrians stood at 63 per cent of the 2019 levels, although the report acknowledged that walking remains “by far the main way that people travel on the City’s streets,” with their number particularly high during peak times.
The impact of the pandemic, which led many employers within the financial district to encourage people to work from home at least part of the time, is also clearly shown in a table contained within the report which shows how various modes of travel in 2022 compare to the numbers observed in 2019 – with only cycling showing growth.
Why cycling alone has bucked that trend is unclear – although reasons behind it may include the reduced levels of motor traffic plus improvements in infrastructure prompting more people to ride, some of whom may have bought a bike for the first time during the pandemic and realised how cheap and convenient it is compared to public transport, as well as wider availability of hire bikes, including e-bikes, to replace walking for the final part of a journey from a railway terminal to the workplace.
In recent years, the City of London Corporation has sought to make its streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians, the latter in acknowledgment of the vast numbers of people walking from public transport hubs to their place of work, or popping out for something to eat at lunchtime.
In its most high-profile intervention aimed at protecting vulnerable road users, a d which also ties in with the goals of its Climate Action Plan, in 2017 the Corporation launched an experimental scheme, later made permanent, to exclude all vehicles, other than cycles and buses, from Bank Junction and the surrounding streets.
The report also said that “long term trends observed from count data taken from 12 sites across the City since 1999 show motor vehicle volumes continuing to decline and cycle volumes continuing to increase.”
It added that “motor vehicle volumes have fallen by 64 per cent since 1999 while cycle volumes have increased by 386 per cent.”
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.