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Cycling’s modal share in London doubled in 2020, says new report

One in three journeys in the capital were walked or cycled last year as travel patterns shifted due to pandemic, says TfL

A new report says that modal share of cycling in London doubled last year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and that one in three journeys in the capital were carried out by foot or on bike during the year.

The shift towards active travel and the “vital role played by walking and cycling during the coronavirus pandemic” has been confirmed by Transport for London in its 14th edition of its Travel in London report, which analyses trends in how people get around the city.

The proportion of journeys walked and cycled increased last year stood at 33.4 per cent, up from 23.3 per cent in 2019, and during 2020 the number of journeys by bike at weekends was regularly double that of the previous year.

While the total number of trips made in 2020 showed a dramatic decrease on the preceding 12 months, with people heeding government advice to work from home where possible, stay at home and avoid public transport, the number of cycling journeys rose by 6.4 per cent, also encouraged by lower levels of motor traffic particularly during lockdown.

TfL described that growth as “a remarkable change in the context of lower general activity and major reductions to workplace commuting,” adding that “this meant that over the year, the proportion of journeys cycled accounted for 3.4 per cent of all journeys, up from 2.3 per cent in 2019 – a 48 per cent increase in the proportion of journeys made by bike.”

Modal share for cycling fluctuated due to the changing seasons, but over the year accounted for 5.3 per cent of all journeys, around double the 2.7 per cent in 2019.

Particularly strong growth took place in riding bikes for leisure at weekends, as well as in cycling generally in outer London, the latter up by 24.4 per cent year on year.

Will Norman, London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner commented: “Since the pandemic, there has been a huge uplift in walking and cycling, with a 10 per cent increase in journeys between 2019 and 2020.

“It’s wonderful to see more and more Londoners are choosing green and sustainable modes of transport to get around and we will continue to work closely with boroughs to transform our roads enabling even more people to shift their journeys to walking and cycling.”

On Twitter, this afternoon, he applauded the efforts that some boroughs had made to encourage cycling, with temporary – and in some cases, permanent – cycle lanes helping encourage many onto two wheels.

In all, more than 100km of new or upgraded cycle lanes have been installed since the pandemic began – including Cycleway 9 on Chiswick High Road, which opened in December last year and is now being extended towards Hammersmith – and 89 Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and 322 School Streets have also been deployed across the capital.

According to TfL, responses to a survey conducted for the report show that changing travel patterns are likely to continue as the city recovers from the pandemic – for example, 15 per cent of respondents said they would cycle more once it is over.

The report also underlined the role that the Santander Cycles bike hire scheme had played during the year, both in terms of casual users and as people returned to work in the city centre – September, October and November of 2021 all seeing record use for those months of the year since the scheme was launched a decade ago.

Alex Williams, TfL’s Director of City Planning, said: “The coronavirus pandemic had a dramatic impact on travel, as people followed government advice to stay at home and avoid public transport. Walking and cycling have played a vital role in allowing people to travel and it’s very encouraging to see this new data, which shows such significant increases in the proportion of journeys cycled or on foot.

“We’re determined to ensure that the way people travel in London is as healthy and sustainable as possible and will be doing all we can to support people to walk, cycle and use public transport as the capital recovers from the pandemic and customers continue to return to our network.”

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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