Cyclists make up a quarter of London traffic, official census finds

London cyclists have long suspected that there were far more riders on the streets of the capital than the authorities gave credit for, and new figures from Transport for London finally confirm it, with cyclists a staggering 64 percent of peak hour traffic on one road.

The Evening Standard reports that a new census of cycling in London has found that one in four road users in the morning rush hour is a cyclist, and that the proportion is even higher on some popular routes.

Theobalds Road, Holborn takes the gong as London’s most bike-trafficked street, with bikes making up 64 percent of vehicles in the morning peak. Other streets full of bike commuters include Kennington Park Road between Kennington and Oval, with 57 percent bikes and Old Street, Shoreditch  at 49 per cent.

Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of cyclists crossing the city’s bridges, as there’s no alternative (short of a substantial detour to breathe fumes in the Rotherhithe Tunnel). Blackfriars, Waterloo and London bridges are the fourth, fifth and sixth busiest streets for cyclists. Riders make up 42 per cent of traffic on these bridges and 15 per cent of people, but take up just 12 per cent of road space.

Bike trips doubled

Previous Transport for London showed that cyclists make 570,000 trips in London every day, almost double the 2001 figure of 290,000. Across the day, bikes make up 16 percent of all road traffic in London.

In the latest census, bicycles were the majority of vehicles on the road at 29 of 164 monitoring stations. For the Mayor’s office, these figures are strong ammunition to protect Boris Johnson’s proposed £913 million-worth of cycling schemes against possible cuts in Transport for London’s budget.

Join​ us

In a comment piece on the Evening Standard website, Andrew Gilligan, Boris Johnson's cycling commissioner, said: “Until recently, cycling in London was seen as faintly marginal. These amazing figures show those days are over.

“In the morning rush hour, no fewer than 38,000 people enter the centre by bike. The bicycle is a mass mode of transport — and an indispensable one.

“But bike provision in London still largely reflects the old idea of cyclists as a tiny, irrelevant minority. Cyclists are wedged into narrow, sometimes dangerous painted strips or onto shared-space schemes on pavements. The old view was that you could only do things for bikes that didn’t affect motor vehicles in any way.

Pointing out that these figures explain the Mayor’s plans and the commitment by Transport for London funding and delivering the cycling infrastructure programme as “one of TfL’s highest priorities”, Gilligan writes: “Our plans won’t mean colossal reductions in space for motor traffic. Bikes are efficient users of road space. But it will mean some reductions, simply to cater for what’s already happening on our roads.”

He finishes with a rallying cry: “Join us: you have nothing to lose but your trains. And you’ll always get a seat.”

No longer good enough

Danny Williams, author of the Cyclists in the City blog, and a member of the Mayor's Roads Task Force, says the figures indicate that it’s “no longer good enough” that cyclists get far less than 24 percent of planners’ attention.

Williams said: “What is frustrating is that Transport for London only counts a bicycle as equivalent to 20 per cent of a motor car when it designs roads and junctions, so it’s still failing to make these very busy bike routes work properly for people on bikes, even when they’re the dominant form of transport.”

On his blog, Williams writes: “One key issue that the Evening Standard didn't address is that the cycling boom in central London – despite the fact that the headline numbers are hugely impressive – is still very much confined to office worker-only rush hour times. And that cyclists in London are still disproportionately young and male and fit.

“If we want London's roads to work more efficiently, we're going to need to create conditions for everyone to get on a bike, not just those of us brave and fast enough to fling ourselves down fast roads that are optimised for motor vehicles.

“It's time to create conditions that optimise cost-effective, more efficient use of road space in London. That means creating space on our roads for the whole range of Londoners to get on a bike.”