Bikes make up around a quarter of rush-hour traffic, new survey shows

25 June 2013

Some London main roads are already approaching Amsterdam-style levels of bike use, Transport for London’s (TfL) new ‘Central London Cycling Census’ has found, in one of the most comprehensive pieces of evidence yet of just how important cycling has become in central London.

In the morning peak (7-10am), up to 64 per cent of vehicles on some main roads are now bicycles. Cycles make up almost half of all northbound traffic crossing Waterloo, Blackfriars and London Bridges, and 62 per cent of all northbound traffic crossing Southwark bridge in the morning peak are cyclists. They are the largest single type of vehicle on each of these bridges, outnumbering cars in each case.

Across the whole day (6am-8pm) 9245 bicycles crossed London Bridge, the highest-volume all-day route counted, averaging 660 bicycles an hour or 11 a minute (in both directions).

On the highest-volume morning peak route, Elephant & Castle roundabout, 2710 bikes passed in just the northbound direction, an average of 903 an hour or 15 a minute in just this one direction. The figure excludes bikes using the Cycle Superhighway bike bypass around Elephant & Castle, so the total number of bikes through this area is even greater.

In total, the TfL survey found 24 per cent of all vehicles at sites counted in central London during the morning rush hour are bicycles and make up 16 per cent of traffic across the entire day (from 6am to 8pm).

At the top ten main roads for cycle traffic bikes represent 42 per cent of the traffic in the morning peak but take up as little as 12 per cent of the road space (This is based on the assumption that a bike takes up a fifth of the space of a car and a tenth of the space of a bus.)

The survey was conducted by manual counts at 164 locations in central London over a two-week period during April 2013. Bikes and all motor vehicles were counted between 6am and 8pm on weekdays. Numbers are likely to be even greater now the weather has warmed up. The results are released as London celebrates Bike Week 2013.

Andrew Gilligan, the Mayor’s cycling commissioner for London, said: “These extraordinary figures show how enormous cycling already is in London and how urgent the task of catering for it properly has become.

“The simple numbers explain why the Mayor is investing £913m in a broad range of measures to support cycling, including the longest substantially-segregated urban cycleway in Europe.

“Cycling has often in the past been treated as niche or marginal. These figures show why the Mayor has stated that can no longer be the case, and that cycling must be treated as a core part of the transport network. They show why the Commissioner for Transport, Sir Peter Hendy CBE, has committed to funding the cycling infrastructure programme as one of TfL’s highest priorities.”

Ben Plowden, Director of Surface Planning at TfL said “Cycling is a great way to see the city and this new survey shows just how popular it is becoming in central London. By working with boroughs and local businesses across London, we remain committed to deliver the Mayors cycling vision and cement London’s place as a leading cycling city.”

- Ends - 

Notes to editors

1. Of the sites counted, the following sites had the highest cycle flows in the morning peak (7am – 10am) Totals are for the peak direction of travel only:

• 64% of all vehicles on Theobald’s Road (westbound) are bikes (2160 out of 3350 vehicles)

• 57% of all vehicles on Kennington Park Road (northbound) are bikes (2530 out of 4430 vehicles)

• 50% of all vehicles on Old Street (eastbound) are bikes (1960 out of 3960 vehicles)

• 47% of all vehicles crossing London Bridge (northbound) are bikes (2490 out of 5340 vehicles)

• 43% of all vehicles crossing Blackfriars Bridge (northbound) are bikes (2650 out of 6140 vehicles)

• 44% of all vehicles crossing Waterloo Bridge (northbound) are bikes (2550 out of 5800 vehicles)

• 34% of all vehicles at Elephant & Castle roundabout (northbound) are bikes (2710 out of 7900 vehicles)

• 29% of all vehicles on the North side of Parliament Square (eastbound) are bikes (2270 out of 7900 vehicles)

2. For comparison, about 40% of all traffic on Amsterdam roads is bikes; 60% in inner city.

3. The highest-volume all-day routes are:

• London Bridge – 9245 bikes, or 660 an hour

• Blackfriars Bridge – 8401 bikes, or 600 an hour

• Theobalds Road – 8287 bikes, or 592 an hour

• Waterloo Bridge – 8105 bikes, or 579 an hour

• Elephant & Castle roundabout – 7094 bikes, or 507 an hour

Total is for both directions, all day means 6am-8pm.

4. The count was conducted at 164 locations in both directions where traffic was two-way. 10 locations were one-way streets for bikes and general traffic, providing 318 count sites in total. At 43 locations (10 of which were two-directions, so 52 count sites in total), only cycles were allowed or fewer than 20 general traffic vehicles passed the count throughout the day, defined as ‘cycle only sites’. At the remaining locations, cycles shared the roads with other traffic.”

5. The count was conducted at 164 locations in both directions where traffic was two-way. Cycle-only sites were not included in calculating the proportion of rush-hour traffic made up of bikes. The proportion of rush-hour traffic which is bikes rises from 24% to 26% if data from “cycle-only” sites is included.

6. At 29 of the 102 “general traffic” census sites (ie not cycle-only sites), bikes make up the majority of all vehicles in the morning peak. At 63 of the sites, they are the single largest mode in the morning peak.

7. A copy of the high level analysis of the ‘Central London Cycling Census’ is available on request.

8. The Mayor’s £913m cycling vision, launched in March, includes a range of new and improved routes to cater for growing numbers of cyclists, including new and upgraded Superhighways and new Quietways on back streets. There will also be improvements to major junctions to make them genuinely safe and unthreatening for cyclists.