Transport for London’s latest Travel in London report was released just before Christmas, and, as always, it is packed full of statistics. One of the most telling graphs comes early in the report –
The distance travelled by motor vehicle has fallen fairly consistently across London since the year 2000. The sharpest decline has been in central and inner London, but even in outer London there has been an 8% decline. It should also be noted that the ‘central London’ count does not correspond precisely to the congestion charging zone – TfL tell us that the fixed counters here are mostly outside of this zone (for instance, on the inner ring road). So the red line suggests motor traffic is declining even in places where you might expect it to have been displaced following the introduction of the charge. Transport for London also supply this titbit of information –
The traffic data considered in this section run only to the end of the 2012 calendar year. While it is too early to draw firm conclusions, it is interesting to note at this stage that observed traffic data for 2013 are showing increases in traffic relative to 2012. If sustained, this could signify a break with the now long-established pattern of slowly declining levels of road traffic in London.
That is, they seem to think motor traffic will start rising again in 2013. Certainly motor traffic in outer London (the green line) did rise by 0.3% in 2012, and this area accounts for 70% of all of London’s motor traffic. Time will tell.
Another graph that tells a story is this one –
What is noteworthy is the remarkable consistency of vehicle speeds in the different areas of London over the last seven years. It just hasn’t budged, despite ‘smoothing traffic flow’ and all the attempts to fiddle with signal timings. There’s been no change – average traffic speeds in central London still hover around 9mph, and around 12mph for inner London. The biggest changes are actually seasonal, with speeds increasing in the summer as demand dips.
The picture for cycling isn’t particularly pretty. Slow but steady growth in outer London (the black line) has tailed off, while cycling levels in inner and greater London (green and red) actually declined last year.
There were 582,000 cycle stages on an average day in 2012, which represents just a 1.8% increase on 2011.
The table above suggests that the growth in cycling from 2000 is tailing off; the large percentage increases (from an admittedly very small base) in the noughties have been replaced by much slower growth from 2009 onwards. This is something acknowledged in the Report itself –
The majority of indicators of cycling in London suggest a slowing in 2012 of the recent high rates of growth.
followed by a list of excuses –
There are a number of reasons for the slowing in cycling growth. In addition to the weather, which can impact on cycle flows, delivery of new cycling infrastructure slowed in 2012/13 in the run up and during the Games period, following a moratorium on new project construction. Further, the implementation of the Better Junctions cycle safety review has impacted on the pace of delivery of major new cycle programmes, including both the Barclays Cycle Superhighway and Better Junctions programmes.
Weather doesn’t seem like a particularly convincing explanation, as the Report concedes that
the overall trend in cycle flow has been upwards across the time series despite annual average temperatures remaining broadly stable. In particular, cycle flows increased considerably in summer 2011 despite average temperatures being lower than the three previous years [my emphasis]
and also that there is no clear relationship between rainfall and cycling levels.
The mode share figures for cycling across London are not impressive. In particular there seems to be a major problem in outer London, where cycling’s mode share is actually lower than that for Britain as a whole –
Some serious work is clearly needed even to attain the Mayor’s unambitious target of a 5% cycling mode share (for London as a whole) by 2026.
The final issue is safety. As @geographyjim pointed out on Twitter, the Report reveals that
Pedal cycles accounted for two per cent of daily journeys, but 22 per cent of KSI casualties in London in 2012
which is a shocking statistic for a mode of transport that is not intrinsically dangerous. The report also includes this interesting graph, showing the casualty rate per distance traveled, by mode of transport in London, broken down by age group.
By this measure cycling (represented by the green dots) is more hazardous than any other mode of transport, bar motorcycling, for all age groups. The casualty rate is particularly bad for teenagers cycling.
The number of pedestrians who were killed or seriously injured (KSI) rose 15% in 2012, up to 1,123 from 980 in 2011. And the picture is just as bad for those cycling, with KSIs in 2012 up to 671, an enormous rise of 18% on the figure for 2011 – just 571. In fact, cycling KSIs in London are now up 55% on 2009, when there were 433 cycling KSIs.
Obviously we should take into account the fact that more people are cycling, but it is now clear that the number of KSIs is outstripping the increase in trips. The risk of a cycling KSI per trip is now higher than any time since 2003, as this graph shows.
The changes of policy that are proposed in the Mayor’s Cycling Vision are coming at exactly the right time, with danger increasing, and cycling levels apparently starting to stagnate. The question is now whether they can be delivered.