It can be easy to get overwhelmed while cycling in a big city like London. Although the roads are often busy, it is relatively safe to cycle on the roads in London. However, Transport For London (TFL) is investing heavily to help create a London cycle network that is safe and accessible to all Londoners. They are hoping that this will encourage more people to join the cycle revolution and help to relieve the strain on public transport, in addition to assisting London to become a greener city, by reducing the number of motor vehicles that travel through the city.
Facts on Cycling in London
How many cyclists in London?
According to Strava Metro, the number of cyclists in London has grown by 120% since the lockdown started. Cycling trips in June 2020 were up 60% compared to the same month last year. Clearly, people are starting to think more about the environmental impact of short journeys by car and the potential dangers of filing into a packed tube or train each morning.
Quoting the head of Strava Metro, Gareth Nettleton, we just hope that this change in behaviour will translate into a long-term shift rather than a “Covid related blip”.
Who cycles most – women or men?
Depending on the route, the % of female cyclists varies between 27% – 34%. Although not unique to London, it seems that more could be done to help encourage more women to cycle in the capital. Apparently, safety is the number one reason why females do not see cycling as their first option to move around the city.
Which age group cycles most?
Cyclists in London are mainly white, male, middle-aged (a broad age range of 25 – 44) and middle-income. People aged 16-24 account for less than 6% of cyclists in London. Again, hopefully, we can close the gap and encourage a more diverse demographic to choose cycling over other forms of transport.
What’s the purpose of most trips?
The purpose of most trips on a bicycle in London is to commute or for leisure. Whether that be to get to work, explore the local area, improve fitness levels (especially while the gyms have been closed) or a trip to a famous landmark at the weekend. Cycling is an excellent way to get to your destination quickly and enjoyably in the city.
Is it dangerous to cycle in London?
Cycling in London is not dangerous. However, it is busier than a lot of places, and you do have to pay attention to several things around you. As long as you do not take risks, run red lights or ride on the inside of a car, bus or lorry turning left at a junction, cycling in London is a very safe mode of transport. If you are thinking about going out on the bike for the first time in London, brush up on the highway code and do some research about positioning on the road as a cyclist.
You should make the most of the London cycle network. This ever-growing labyrinth of cyclist-friendly paths is a safe haven to travel around the city without having to wrestle for space with black cabbies, Ubers and the dreaded double-decker London buses.
London cycle network
What is it?
The London Cycle Network is a network of cycling lanes and paths that covers the capital giving cyclists a safe way of cycling around the city.
TFLs Cycling Action Plan includes the goal to expand the London-wide cycle network to reach 28 per cent of Londoners by 2024. That means that 28% of Londoners will live within 400m of a London Cycle Network route (compared to the current 9%).
When did it start and why?
The term London Cycle Network was initially used in the 1980s. Back then, it was more of a marketing ploy and a rough set of directions for would-be cyclists. The idea was to provide a map of quieter routes for cyclists to take to get around the city. It was doomed to failure thanks to a lack of investment and the suggested routes posing more dangers to cyclists (due to the number of junctions and lack of dedicated cycle lanes along the routes) than if they had followed the more direct main roads.
Fast forward a few years, and finally, the governments started spending some money on some dedicated cycling infrastructure with the introduction of Cycle Superhighways and Quietways.
In 2019 the brand “London Cycle Network” was reintroduced, to help simplify the current cycling lane network and bring London in line with other cities that have a unified name and signage system for the cycle lanes in their city.
The goal is simple, to create safe, clearly signposted and accessible cycling routes that allow Londoners to cycle around the city, without fear or anxiety for their safety.
How much has been spent so far and how much more budget is allocated to the project?
It is unclear how much TFL has invested since the announcement of the unified London Cycle Network. In their Cycling Action Plan, they state that the plan is “supported by the £2.3bn funding for Healthy Streets included in TfL’s latest Business Plan”. Of which, £250 million has been allocated to create a safer London cycle network.
What are the existing lanes?
To view all the current cycleways that form the London Cycle Network, check out this handy map on the TFL site https://tfl.gov.uk/maps/cycle
What are the new lanes planned and coming up?
The plan is to introduce a further 25 cycle lanes to the network, resulting in more than 450km of new routes planned for development by 2024.
Here are the first six routes that were given the go-ahead back in 2018 and are the first in the pipeline to be completed (albeit slightly delayed by the events of 2020):
- Camden and Tottenham Hale
- Hackney and the Isle of Dogs
- Dalston and Lea Bridge Road
- Rotherhithe and Peckham
- Ilford and Barking Riverside
- Wembley and Willesden
Keep an eye on the TFL site for updates and developments – https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/cycling/routes-and-maps/cycleways
Cycle lane war
Greater London is a large and diverse city. That does, however, mean that no matter what “improvements” are planned for one demographic, there will always be an opposition.
What is it?
Hounslow council has found itself at the mercy of the high court, due to some rash decisions and improper implementation of the new Chiswick High Road cycle route.
Most residents welcome TFLs plan to cut down motor traffic. However, Hounslow councils rushed implementation of the cycle lane and subsequent reduction in road space has affected those that need to travel by car for work or anyone that has to drive or get the bus to travel.
Regrettably, the changes made by Hounslow council to restart construction of the cycle lane, following delays caused by the lockdowns in 2020 has resulted in a backlash from residents. It has created a bottleneck in the traffic and is causing significant delays for any motorists passing through Chiswick High Road.
Low traffic Neighbourhoods, what are they?
Low traffic neighbourhoods (or LTNs) is an initiative to reduce motor traffic on mainly residential streets. While they are welcomed by many, there are still several businesses and residents that have campaigned against their implementation. Some being as successful as to have the LTN system removed entirely, such as in Tooting.
Similar to the “Cycle lane war”, due to London’s dense population you are not going to be able to keep everyone happy when trying to implement change and some people will have to adapt to a new system for the greater good of the community. However, it is essential that any such schemes do not isolate or segregate those most in need. While the LTN initiative seems like a great idea for cyclists on paper, there is still some work and education to be done before we can enjoy car-free roads in our beloved capital.
Street Space Scheme who complained about this?
Due to the imposition of social distancing in 2020, it quickly became apparent that London’s paths were not designed to accommodate a safe 2m distance to be maintained by pedestrians. TFLs focus on the Street Space Scheme has led to a delay in the development of the London Cycle Network.
Naturally, additional space is not easy to come by in a built-up city like London. So TFL has had to borrow road space from motorists and impose restrictions on weekday vehicle access during certain times. This has led to complaints by black cab drivers, due to a drop in trade. In addition, local residents that require the use of a motor vehicle are complaining due to long traffic jams.
Even cyclists are divided…
Now more than ever, we need to stay united and work together to find a reasonable resolution for all road and path users. However, some cyclists are not happy with Hounslow Council due to the difficulties leaving the cycle lane during busy times and the potential danger caused by one side of the cycle lane going against the flow of traffic.
Councils will have to remove any such schemes within 18 months unless they can get local backing following a consultation.
It may not be perfect, but is undoubtedly a step in the right direction to help make London’s streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Hopefully, councils and residents can find a resolution that sees more low traffic neighbourhoods and street space in London.
Name our lanes competition
You may have missed the vote, but it is still a bit of lighthearted good news that will hopefully have a positive impact on London’s cycle network.
What is it and Why has this competition been created?
#Nameourlanes is a wonderful competition launched by the climate charity Possible, in partnership with Brompton Bikes and Covent Garden.
The purpose of the campaign is to encourage Londoners to feel more connected to cycling their city and get them to suggest innovative names for existing cycle lanes. There were over 1,000 suggestions, ranging from the absurd and witty to more appropriate and respectful such as Maurice Burton Way for CS7, or Tao’s Route for CS1.
Hirra Khan Adeogun, head of car-free cities at Possible, said: “We want to encourage the authorities to construct more cycling infrastructure. We have two crises at the moment – Covid-19 and the climate crisis. Cycling is a key solution to both, by cutting emissions and allowing people to get where they want to go while socially distancing.”
The winners have been announced and you can have a look at the full list of winning names HERE
Cycling is not the answer to all our problems, however, if 2020 has taught us nothing else, we have learnt that maybe packed public transport is not the safest way to travel. The London Cycling Campaign is about more than just building a few extra cycling lanes or introducing a few low traffic areas. TFL needs to prioritise safety and educate non-cyclists and children on how to cycle safely at the same time as providing us Londoners with the infrastructure to navigate our beautiful city safely on a bike.
London is well behind European cities such as Amsterdam and Kopenhagen. However, that is no reason to give up. Their roads are built around the cycle lanes and cyclists as opposed to the other way around, and cars stop and show respect to cyclists. However, it is not too late to bring London up to speed with the best cities in the world for cyclists, but we may have to compromise and change some of our existing habits.
Improving London’s Cycle Lanes will help tackle two crises. Firstly Covid-19, as it will allow more people to travel to work or appointments without having to risk transmission from getting on public transport. More importantly, increasing the number of people that regularly choose cycling over using a car or public transport could help the climate crises and help to reduce the impact Londoners are having on the environment.