Tuesday 11 September 2012

More cycling than car traffic in central London during the Games?

Just a quick post speculating on a couple of interesting bits of info about transport trends in London. First, according to @bitoclass on Twitter TfL have said that cycling in London increased 22% during the Olympics (presumably compared to last year). Second, TfL have also said that vehicle traffic in central London fell considerably during the Games period, though I haven't seen any firm figures. Third, recall that even before the Games car traffic in central London was falling and bike traffic rising, with the two looking likely to converge pretty soon:

Putting these together, my guess is that cycling accounted for more journeys than cars in central London during the Games period, for the first time in probably 60 years or more. Quite a milestone if so.

[Update: Paul (@bitoclass) has kindly posted a pic of the TfL presentation slide which was the source of his factoid:

So traffic in central London was down by 5-10% in August this year compared to August 2011, and it was cycling across the Thames bridges that was up by 22%. In recent years, growth in cycling across the Thames has lagged slightly behind growth in central London (see table 8 on p.20 here) so it's quite possible that cycling in central London grew by 25% or more.

In any case, we'll probably have to wait until January or so for TfL to update the trend in my chart above. From a policy perspective, perhaps the more interesting question is whether these short-term changes in travel patterns will persist. Cycling through central London yesterday it certainly felt like the vehicle traffic was still very light, but in the absence of any more restrictions I would expect it to creep back to something close to pre-Games levels over time. Or perhaps it won't, if cycling levels stay high - after all, it does seem like once people make the leap to start cycling that a lot of them find it works for them, and in one way or another the Games have probably encouraged plenty of people to make that leap.]


  1. My own semi-scientific survey was made on the first Monday of the Olympic Games.  A colleague had arranged a meeting at the far end of Kings Road, Chelsea, and had booked a cab to collect us from Fleet St 30 minutes ahead.  I thought at the time, no chance, it will take a good 40 minutes to do that journey!

    Not so, it took us 30 minutes, following a zigzaggy route to get around the Zil lanes.  The streets were eerily quiet.

    The volume of commercial traffic didn't seem much diffrerent form normal, nor taxis, it was private cars which seems to have disappeared.  In fact, I made a count (around 10:30am there, midday back) and counting only moving cars on our route, excluding minicabs, I counted three - on the entire return journey.

  2. Motor traffic felt way down during the Olympics.  However, the if anything the roads felt less safe as a result since, on my commute, many drivers were taking the opportunity to drive faster (and not leaving any more space to pass.  

    The end of the Paralympics coincided with the return of the dreaded 'school run' and traffic levels took a big overnight leap.  


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