The provision of new dedicated cycling infrastructure has yet to attract a wider range of Londoners travelling by bicycle, according to an update on cycling trends produced by Transport for London.
The paper says that “the demographic profile of people who cycle on new infrastructure is not significantly different from those who cycle as whole” and that these continue to be “mostly white, male, middle-aged and high income people who cycle regularly”.
The proportion of women cycling in London is described as a “relatively low” 27% on most routes, though it is higher (up to 34%) on designated “quietway” routes. The update also notes that the proportion of cyclists in the 16-24 age group is “very low” and that over 85% of cyclists on most routes are white.
Fewer than 14% of London cyclists are from low income households compared with 26% of the capital’s population while the number from households with incomes above £75,000 a year often exceeds 20% or 30% on some routes and is thought to be increasing slightly. The vast majority of Londoners who cycle do so very regularly, meaning more than five days a week.
Coverage elsewhere has highlighted an increase across the whole of London of “almost 5%” in “cycling volume” – which means the number of people cycling – during 2018 compared with 2017, which saw a near stagnation of cycling volume growth. London’s population grew by approximately 1% between 2017 and 2018, according to new Office for National Statistics estimates. In Central London there was a 4% increase in the average distance travelled – rather than numbers cycling – in the fourth quarter of the 2018/19 financial year over the same period in the previous one.
The TfL paper also says that although “overall cycling volumes have grown on all assessed routes” redesigned for cyclists’ benefit and faster than on other roads, it cannot yet assess whether this has been due to cyclists changing their usual route in order to use those with new infrastructure, people transferring to cycling from other transport modes, or existing cyclists making more trips (defined as one-way movement for a specific purpose).
TfL says it is concerned that the socio-economic profile of London cyclists is so narrow and by the failure so far of routes with new cycling infrastructure to have drawn riders more representative of the city’s population. Grants and training programmes aimed at encouraging Londoners from under-represented groups have been provided in an effort to change this.
The most recent annual Travel In London report, a compendious volume of transport statistics, found a marked increase in the proportion of Londoners who consider cycling is “not for people like me”. The report said this suggests “an issue in the image of cycling, which is perceived as an exclusive mode or one that is only accessible to certain demographic groups” (page 92).
It also said that “the barriers to cycling are felt more acutely by women, BAME people and those earning less than £20,000 each year” (page 81). The trend update’s findings will be included in the new Travel in London Report 12 when it is published at the end of this year.
Past research for TfL for its annual Travel in London survey (as distinct from the full report) has not supported hopes that segregated so-called “superhighways” as they were then called would encourage greater percentages of female cyclists on those routes.
The introduction of major cycling infrastructure, included segregated lanes, to London’s streets began under Boris Johnson when he was London Mayor. Johnson gave the newly-created the job of cycling commissioner to a media supporter, Andrew Gilligan, despite his having no prior experience as a transport planner.
In his Introduction to his 2013 Vision for Cycling in London, Johnson wrote that he wanted to see more women cycling, more older people cycling, more black and ethnic minority Londoners cycling [and] more cyclists of all social backgrounds – without which truly mass participation can never come”. Johnson’s successor, Sadiq Khan has continued to invest TfL funds in segregated lanes and and other cycling infrastructure.
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