Friday 23 August 2013

Journeys in London are no longer and no different to anywhere else

Interesting figures from Transport for London about journeys by car, their lengths and purposes.

How far people are willing to travel is the same everywhere
Londoners use cars for a wide range of journey distances, but most of the journeys that London residents make, just like most journeys made in other places in the world, are short.

2/3rds of the journeys that Londoners make by car are under 5 km (3 miles) in length. Half of these car journeys are less than 3 km (2 miles) in length and a third of the total are under 2 km (1.25 miles) in length.

Clearly Londoners don't use cars just because they have long distances to travel. They use cars because they find them to be a convenient and safe way to make their journeys.

The reasons why people travel are the same everywhere
It turns out that Londoners use cars in much the same way as the Dutch people use bicycles. TfL says that "on an average day, the typical London resident aged 16+ makes 0.73 trips per day by car as a driver and 0.23 trips per day as a passenger". This is not far off the average 0.8 trips per day by bicycle by the Dutch (top cities in The Netherlands have up to 1.4 trips per day by bike).

Londoners use their cars for almost exactly the same purposes as the Dutch use their bicycles

A missed opportunity
Figures for the whole of The Netherlands for all journey types.
Source: Fietsberaad "Cycling in The Netherlands"
If Londoners use their cars for journeys which the Dutch would make by bike, and the distances covered by Londoners are no greater than the distances covered by the Dutch by bike, why is it that Londoners don't cycle instead of drive for those short journeys ? Why are only 2% of journeys in London by bicycle ?

I think we all know the answer by now. Cycling in heavy traffic on roads which even now continue to be designed primarily to benefit motorists over cyclists is simply not for everyone. When roads are closed for events so that people can ride without the low subjective safety which results from "sharing" with motor vehicles, tens of thousands of people turn up to ride bikes.

Most people will not take part in something that feels like an extreme sport just to pick up shopping. They just want to get to their destination and back again as easily as possible. Rather than expecting people to cycle despite conditions, a second revolution on Dutch streets in the 20th century removed motor vehicles and enabled comfortable and convenient cycling.

Continue to second post today from the same data: What happens when Londoners have children

TfL link courtesy of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain.


Bob said...

Just the other morning at breakfast with a group of retirees, we spoke about how in my neighbourhood, we are into the third generation of home owners. My wife's parents (from whose Estate we bought the property) had seven kids. They all walked to school or took the bus.
These days however, there are more SUVs than children, and if you're not on a bus route, the parents drive their kids to school. The school parking lots are just bedlam.

Jim Moore said...

Great post (haven't read the follow-up yet). I note the number of words taken to explain these ideas is getting less and less each time, and you were succinct to start with! Writing in that way is a great skill to have.

I always enjoy your comments. You're a half-generation older than me so it gives me hope that I'll be able to continue campaigning for a long time yet. Thanks.

Yes, I'll never forget the afternoon we took our then 5-year old son to my old primary (elementary) school for an interview with the school Principal. The absolute bedlam of motorised traffic in the narrow streets adjoining the school shocked me twice: once just experiencing it and secondly on realising that this had been the status quo for some time and nobody involved with school - staff, parents etc had resolved to clear it up for the sake of the children for whom the school existed!

Sadly my now almost 17 year old son has ridden a bike to school exactly once, and I don't blame him. He also has a distaste for walking, for exactly the reasons that David's post explains i.e. it is slow and inconvenient. Thanks to blogs like David's we know what the answers are.

Cheers to you both.