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Year-on-year congestion levels in London soar outside city centre as schools go back

Outside congestion charge zone, traffic jams are up a fifth on last year - and congestion was up 50 per cent last Monday compared to same day in 2019

Year-on-year motor traffic congestion levels in London have soared in areas outside the city centre with schools reopening for the new academic year as lockdown restrictions ease.

According to a report in the Guardian, during August levels of traffic outside the central Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) – which includes the whole of the City of London, plus parts of the City of Westminster, Camden, Islington, Southwark and Lambeth – were already ahead of 2019 levels.

On average, while falling sharply within the CCZ itself, the levels of congestion outside the zone are a fifth higher than they were at the same point last year, with a 153 per cent year-on-year rise recorded on Monday September 7 – the day many of the capital’s schools went back.

 The figures come from direction finding app Waze’s programme, Waze for Cities, in which it partners with municipalities throughout the world to harness GPS data provided by users of the app to provide insights on where problems arise on the road network and help inform decision-making going forward.

Using data from around 1 million active monthly users in the capital, which includes their journey times, Waze for Cities is able to calculate daily congestion, which it defines as roads on which traffic moves at 80 per cent or less of the speed achieved when traffic there flows freely.

Within the CCZ itself, levels of congestion have fallen by half year on year – possibly due to an increase in the cost of the congestion charge introduced in June following a suspension of it earlier in lockdown leading motorists to seek routes that avoid it altogether.

Stephen Edwards, director of policy at the walking charity Living Streets, said: “This concerning data should serve as a warning that the opportunity to embed the health and environmental benefits of fewer vehicles is not lost.

“Better streets for walking and cycling are better for us all. We must move ahead with schemes to promote these behaviours.”

News of the increase in traffic in London comes amid continued small but vocal opposition to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in boroughs around the country, with such schemes aimed at removing rat-running drivers from residential roads and make them less dangerous and more pleasant for the people who live there.

> There are probably more low traffic neighbourhoods on the cards than you think

Simon has been news editor at 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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