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Journalist admits anti-cycle lane angle on London being named world's most congested city would “get more readers”

Traffic data firm Inrix says this morning’s ‘Bike lanes make London world’s most congested city’ headlines were not “accurately representing what we have said”

Mainstream media headlines this morning blaming London being named the city with the world’s worst congestion on bike lanes are not “accurately representing what we have said,” according to the company that carried out the research, adding that one journalist had admitted that the anti-cycle lane angle “gets more readers.”

Traffic data firm Inrix named the UK capital as the world’s most congested city last year in its 2021 Global Traffic Scorecard, and while operations director Peter Lees was quoted as saying that reallocation of road space for pedestrians and cyclists was one potential factor, as we pointed out in our coverage this morning, the number-one reason he gave is simply that London’s economic recovery from the pandemic is happening at a faster pace than elsewhere – hence, there is more motor traffic on the roads compared to other cities.

> “Incredibly simplistic” to blame cycle lanes for London being named world’s most congested city

In a tweet this afternoon addressed to London Walking & Cycling Commissioner Will Norman, who had himself posted to Twitter about the report, Dr Edward Seaton said that Professor Tom Pike of Imperial College London had contacted Lees, who had confirmed in a letter – reproduced with permission in the tweet – that the press focus on bike lanes was not “accurately representing what we said.”

Lees wrote: “We provided a number of interviews to the press yesterday in connection with the release of our annual Scorecard, showing the most congested cities around the world.

“In all cases, the speedy economic rebound was presented as the single biggest cause of congestion in London, whilst conversely, cities in other parts of the world have been much slower to return to near-normal commuting, resulting in them being listed lower in the rankings.”

“Sharing road space with pedestrians – in connection with social distancing relating to the pandemic – and longer term provision of more space for cyclists was also mentioned, but as much smaller contributory factors,” he continued. “One journalist admitted that the cycle lane comment would ‘get more readers’, hence some of the headlines today, not accurately representing what we have said.

“The ranking for London at number one, indicates a positive economic rebound for the UK,” added Lees, who expressed the hope that his response “adds some clarity.”

He didn’t reveal who the journalist in question is, but there are more candidates than in a Prime Minister’s constituency at a general election – take your pick from someone working for the London Evening Standard, the Daily Express, LBC, Mail Online and the, erm, Jersey Evening Post, among others.

Negative coverage of cycling infrastructure (or changes to the Highway Code aimed at protecting vulnerable road users and trying to get motorists to take more responsibility for their actions) gets more readers and clicks – who knew?

We’re shocked.

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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