"Traffic volumes of all vehicular modes have decreased over the last two decades by at least one-third," says a new report from the City of London Corporation. "Except cycling," adds the report, which was based on traffic counts at key points in the Square Mile. Significantly, the traffic census was undertaken in October and November 2017 and "it is likely that cycling would make up an even greater share of vehicle movements during the spring and summer months," concludes the report, due to be published later this month.*
Traffic In The City 2018 reveals that “cyclists [are the] single largest mode of transport counted on City streets" in the morning peak. The traffic census has been running since 1999, and now for the first time also counts the number of pedestrians.
The report suggests that the drop in motor vehicle use – but huge uplift in bike use – was kick-started by the introduction of the congestion charge in 2003.
Traffic analysts working for the City of London Corporation – which has been governing London for 800 years – also say that pedestrians and cyclists have comparatively little space dedicated to them, but between them they account for the most people moved, especially during the morning peak.
"The number of cyclists counted during the morning peak hour has more than doubled since 2007, making it the single largest mode of transport counted on City streets from 08:00 to 09:00," says the report.
However, unlike motor vehicle use which remains constant throughout the day, cycle use spikes from 8am to 10am and then again between 5pm and 7pm. This could bolster those who argue that London's Cycle Superhighways should – somehow – be operational only during commute times.
The City of London Corporation doesn't mention such an option and appears, instead, to be calling for more dedicated space for cyclists. "Significant changes in cycling infrastructure provision and/or travel behaviour may be needed to spur further growth in cycling on City streets," says Traffic In The City 2018. "Growth in cycling began to slow in 2012," says the report, "it does appear that the City counts have reached ‘peak cycle’ over the last five years."
While cycle use may have peaked, it's still significant. "There are more cycles than taxis on City streets from 19:00 to 20:00," says the report, "suggesting that cycle travel is also a significant off-peak travel mode on City Streets."
One of the key takeaways from the report is that motor vehicles in London may get the lion's share of road space – and funding – but it's actually non-motorised forms of transport which keep the city moving.
"Pavements – which often make up less than 25 percent of total street space – move the majority of people travelling on City streets," says the report. Motor vehicles, excluding buses, use 53 percent of the road space to move under 25 percent of the people making journeys in London's Square Mile. Buses carry a similar number of people, but use just 9 percent of the road space.
Traffic In The City 2018 is based on data from the City of London Traffic Composition Surveys which have been conducted every two years since 1999. The cyclists measured were on personal bikes as well as on dockless bike-share bikes and on Transport for London's Santander cycles. However, there is no breakdown between these cycle modes. Nor was there any measurement of cycle use on off-road routes, such as canal tow-paths or parks, suggesting that cycle use is even higher than that measured via the on-road counts.
Meanwhile, for those who like to see a verifiable numeric representation of people dotting around London by bike there's this:
* Traffic in the City 2018 has yet to officially released by the City of London Corporation. It goes in front of the body's transportation committee on 22nd February but was spotted in advance of publication by Lastnotlost.