Friday 1 December 2017 12.20 GMT
Congestion isn’t exactly the most fashionable political topic of our times, but it is a problem that threatens London’s status as a well-functioning, competitive global city. Businesses need to be able to make and receive reliable deliveries, Londoners need to be able to get to work on time, and tourists – almost 20 million of them a year in London – need to get around quickly and easily too.
As politicians wake up to the need to do more to increase Britain’s productivity, being smarter in how we set up our transport infrastructure is essential. Our streets will get more congested if we do nothing as London continues to grow – currently at the rate of an additional London borough every three years. If no further action is taken, GLA figures show that by 2041, three days would be lost per person every year due to congestion.
Following discussions with the government, we commissioned an independent study earlier this year to look at the causes of congestion and recommend practical actions for reducing it. The report, published on Friday, shows that the mayor, Sadiq Khan, is taking the right approach by prioritising walking, cycling and public transport, as opposed to prioritising cars.
Everyone has their opinion on what causes congestion, many of which are conflicting. The causes are complex, but 75% of congestion is caused simply by there being too great a demand for our limited street space. Or, without the jargon: too many motor vehicles and too few people in them.
To solve the problem, the report recommends that the mayor should prioritise the efficient use of our roads, saying that the “most space-efficient means of moving people – walking, cycling and public transport – should be prioritised over low-occupancy private transport.”
Alongside walking, cycling is the most healthy and sustainable of all transport modes and the most efficient way of getting lots of people around on our limited road space.
The new protected cycle lanes that opened last year in London can move five times as many people per hour as a main carriageway lane in the most congested parts of our city. At peak times, the new cycling infrastructure moves an average of 46% of people along the route despite occupying only 30% of the equivalent road space. Just two weeks after opening, the east-west and north-south cycle superhighway roads were moving 5% more people per hour than they could without cycle lanes – and that number is increasing as more cyclists are attracted to the routes.
Consultations on plans for two new major cycle routes, CS4 and CS9 so far suggest that the most effective way to get more people cycling is by building protected lanes on main roads. These break down a crucial barrier for those people who don’t cycle because they don’t feel safe. The results of this success benefit everyone – whether or not they cycle themselves.
Overall, the numbers of people using these new protected routes has grown by a phenomenal 50% in some cases, proving that it’s not the English weather that’s stopping people cycling but the traffic-dominated nature of most of London’s roads. In total, more than half a million kilometres are ridden by cyclists on the average day within central London, a rise of 7% in three years.
Across London, our latest figures show that the total number of bike journeys every day in 2016 was 730,000, up from 670,000 in 2015 – an increase of 8.8%.