Thursday, 10 February 2011

2011: More bicycles than cars will cross central London's bridges every morning peak

Cycling towards Blackfriars Bridge. We're nearly 30% of the
rush-hour traffic but have to put up with squeezing
between the motor vehicles. Is that right any longer?
I'm lucky enough to have early sight of the 2010 'screenline data' from Transport for London for all London bridges.

What this shows is the number of vehicles crossing London's bridges, counted manually, over various different dates.

And what a fascinating read. I'm going to focus on the bridges in the TfL Zone 1 for now. Zone 1, for those of you outside London, means the following briges (from west to east):

Vauxhall; Lambeth; Westminster; Waterloo; Blackfriars; Southwark, London; Tower Bridges. These bridges start on the south side in the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark. And they deliver people into either the City of Westminster of the City of London.

Back in 2006, there were 34,993 vehicle movements northbound over these London bridges between 7am and 10am. That included 13,931 private motor cars and 6,712 bicycles. In other words, bicycles made up 19% of peak hour "traffic" heading into Westminster and the City of London.

By 2008, that had shifted against private cars and towards bicycles. So in 2008, there were 34,214 vehicle movements. Of those, 9,504 were in private motor cars and 8,361 on bicycles. Bicycles made up 24.4% of the traffic heading north over London's zone one bridges.

Leap forward to 2010 and the numbers are startling. There were 34,869 vehicles heading over these bridges into the Cities of London and Westminster during the morning peak. Of that total, 9,657 were bicycles, or 27.7%. And private cars made up 9,842 of the total vehicles, or 28.2%. So, the overall volume of 'vehicles' crossing the bridges has remained broadly flat since 2006 but car use has fallen from nearly 14,000 to under 10,000 movements while bicycle use has grown from under 7,000 to nearly 10,000 in that time.

Now, my reckoning is that most of those cars are carrying only one person in the morning, namely the driver. In fact, on average, according to the Department for Transport, the 'average occupancy' of a commuter motor car between 7-10am is 1.16.

So, let's assume that those 9,842 cars are therefore transporting 11,416 people. That's against 9,657 people being transported by bicycle (note, in Holland, Denmark or Germany, a proportion of those bicycles would be carrying children or other passengers as that's kind of normal there, considered a bit freaky here by the majority of people. Which is daft of them).

Funny, that our bridges are still designed almost exclusively around the private motor car, when you think of it, isn't it? 

Perhaps it's time that the people who use bicycles shouted a bit more loudly at our politicians about redesignating some of our road space towards the bicycle. After all, by the end of 2011, if the current trajectory continues, there are going to be way more of us crossing into Westminster and the City of London by bicycle than there are in private motor cars.

If you need convincing that cycling gets a raw deal on London's bridges, take a look at this video of Vauxhall Bridge heading south and just imagine how you'd like to be riding along in the utterly useless cycle lane when that coach overtakes you (with thanks to christhebull and gaz545)