New TfL data shows huge increase in the proportion of journeys made on foot and by cycle during the pandemic

The proportion of journeys walked and cycled in London increased from 23.3% in 2019 to 33.4 per cent in 2020, according to Transport for London (TfL).

It has published a report that outlines the vital role played by walking and cycling during the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on people’s travel habits during 2020, as people worked from home or followed Government advice to stay at home or minimise use of public transport. TfL’s Travel in London report uses data gathered from travel surveys to calculate the number of trips made on each mode of transport in London.

While the total number of trips made in 2020 decreased dramatically as a result of the pandemic, the number of journeys cycled increased by 6.4%, a remarkable change in the context of lower general activity and major reductions to workplace commuting. This meant that over the year, the proportion of journeys cycled accounted for 3.4% of all journeys, up from 2.3% in 2019 – a 48% increase in the proportion of journeys made by bike.

During the pandemic, cycling mode shares for London residents fluctuated, reflecting seasonality, but were still on average around twice as high (5.3%) as they were before the pandemic (2.7% 2019/20).

There was also a significant increase in the number of trips walked in London in 2020, with the proportion of journeys made on foot by Londoners increasing from 21% of all journeys to 30% – a 43% increase.

Data from TfL’s network of cycle counters also suggests that leisure cycling in particular has boomed since the start of the pandemic, with the number of journeys at weekends regularly double those of equivalent weekends in previous years. Growth in cycling during 2020 was particularly strong in outer London, rising by 24.4%. TfL has worked closely with boroughs across London, including those in outer London, to ensure that infrastructure is in place to support these increases.

Responses from people taking part in TfL’s report suggest that many of these changes in travel are likely to persist as London recovers from the pandemic. 30% of people said that they are likely to walk more after the pandemic, compared to 10% who believed they will walk less. Meanwhile, 15% of people stated that they would cycle more after the pandemic.

The report also highlights the vital role played by Santander Cycles throughout the pandemic, with the scheme seeing record numbers of casual users throughout the pandemic and particularly as Londoners returned to offices in the centre of the capital. September, October and November this year were all record months for the scheme, with September and October both seeing more than one million hires over the month.

Since the period covered by the report, bus and tube figures up to November 2021 show that public transport usage has continued to grow as covid restrictions have been eased. Compared to before the pandemic, the Tube network on weekdays has recently seen more than 60% of journeys, but this has reached as high as 80% at weekends, while ridership on buses was regularly at 75% of pre-pandemic levels. Overall TfL figures up to November 2021 indicate that use of London’s public transport network was at around 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels and that millions of Londoners were returning to the transport network, showing they have confidence that it is safe, clean and reliable.

Will Norman, London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner said: “Since the pandemic, there has been a huge uplift in walking and cycling, with a ten per cent increase in journeys between 2019 and 2020. It’s wonderful to see more and more Londoners are choosing green and sustainable modes of transport to get around and we will continue to work closely with boroughs to transform our roads enabling even more people to shift their journeys to walking and cycling.”

Alex Williams, TfL’s Director of City Planning, said: “The coronavirus pandemic had a dramatic impact on travel, as people followed government advice to stay at home and avoid public transport. Walking and cycling have played a vital role in allowing people to travel and it’s very encouraging to see this new data, which shows such significant increases in the proportion of journeys cycled or on foot. We’re determined to ensure that the way people travel in London is as healthy and sustainable as possible and will be doing all we can to support people to walk, cycle and use public transport as the capital recovers from the pandemic and customers continue to return to our network.”

Since the start of the pandemic, TfL has worked closely with boroughs across the capital to invest in the walking and cycling infrastructure needed to enable increases in active travel, including more than 100km of new or upgraded cycle lanes, 89 Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, 322 ‘School Streets’ and 84 km of TLRN bus lanes converted to operate 24/7 Monday – Sunday.

By autumn 2021, 19.4% of Londoners lived within 400 metres of a cycle route, an increase of almost 8 percentage points since 2019 (when it was 11.5 per cent), or approximately 750,000 more Londoners living within 400 metres of the cycle network since 2019.

TfL has recently started work on an extension to a major new Cycleway in west London. Construction work has started to transform the Hammersmith Gyratory, making it safer and easier to walk and cycle. Last week, TfL completed work to create a new pedestrian crossing at Battersea Bridge following the tragic death of Jack Ryan here earlier this year.

TfL has so far reduced danger at 43 junctions across London as part of its Safer Junctions programme. All locations in the Safer Junctions programme had higher-than-average collision rates and this improvement work is a vital part of TfL’s Vision Zero ambition.

TfL’s world-first Direct Vision Standard, which reduces lethal blind spots on lorries, makes up another part of this work and is already helping to save lives and prevent life-changing injuries.

The scheme requires owners of Heavy Good Vehicles (HGVs) weighing more than 12 tonnes to apply for a free permit that assigns vehicles a star rating based on how much the driver can see directly through their cab windows in order to be able to drive in London. Since its introduction, more than 70,000 HGVs have had safe systems fitted, improving protection for people walking, cycling or riding e-scooters or motorcycles and saving lives.

Although the survey programmes themselves were restricted at times during the pandemic, they provide a good overall picture of changes in travel of the year.

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