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  • Writer's pictureMichal J A Paszkiewicz

London is for cyclists

In a letter dated 2 June 2020 Mayor of London Sadiq Khan wrote to Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps:

My recently announced Streetspace plan is repurposing general traffic lanes and parking spaces for temporary cycle lanes and wider footways, so that people can safely socially distance. Transport for London (TfL) modelling suggests that there could be as much as a tenfold increase in cycling and fivefold increase in walking as we emerge from the crisis, which brings benefits for public health and is a key part of my vision for a green recovery.

The tenfold increase in cycling may have been slightly optimistic, but Transport for London published data in 2022 showing that there was at least a 40% increase in cycling compared to pre-pandemic levels.

There has been a multi-faceted drive to increase cycling in London, both through lowering speed limits across London and through the introduction of cycle lanes, cycle highways, and other cycling infrastructure.

Numerous studies have shown that the biggest barrier for people to start cycling are concerns over road danger, so these policy decisions are very clearly directed at addressing this issue and make perfect logical sense.

By looking at a map of London's speed limits, it is easy to see how much of the city is suitable for cycling (at least in theory):

A map of London with different colours representing different road speeds.
London's dedicated Cycling infrastructure is impressive and supported by the 20mph limited roads

An average amateur cyclist can travel about 17-18mph on flat ground, meaning that cyclists should be able to more or less keep up with the flow of traffic on the 20mph zones in light blue.

What isn't entirely clear is whether the 40% increase in cycling was a result of change in road policies, or due to the added ease of cycling throughout the pandemic as fewer cars were on the road and public transport was periodically halted or unfavourable.

Data from OpenStreetMap, available under the Open Database License.


Michal is a Software Developer with over a decade of experience, the majority of which he has worked on complex Transport systems. When he isn't working, he spends more time learning about Transport than is healthy for him.

If you learnt anything here, or enjoyed reading this analysis, please support Michal by buying his new book - The Perfect Transport: and the science of why you can't have it.

Some of his other writing and interactive content on Transport can also be found on his blog.

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