Sunday 12 June 2016

Traffic counts on the Cycle Superhighways

The DfT publish their traffic flow data at around this time of year (here), and this provides us with a chance to catch up with what's been happening on the roads.

I have plotted the Annual Average Daily Flow (AADF) figures for the main CS routes over the last five years. Journeys start from out of town (on the left-hand side of the graph).

Larger image available here

You can see that in the case of CS2, the AADF figures for cycling are pretty much identical for 2014 and 2015, and that during this period there have been two spikes, one at CP6201 (marked in green on the map below) and the other at CP70193 (marked in blue).

The CS2 Extension, which became available to cyclists in November 2013, has not worked out in the way that many people had hoped. This is related to (as yet) unresolved issues at Bow Roundabout and the Stratford gyratory, but more than this, as the recently published report of the National Propensity to Cycle Tool Project cautions  (here), where the wider cycling network is poor and cycling levels are low, building small amounts of infrastructure in isolation tends to have relatively little effect. Indeed, in order for these high-engineered schemes to make a difference, they must be built "as part of a developing network".

The case is, the number of cycle journeys through CP26201 (the red-coloured marker over the River Lea) was the pretty much the same in 2015 as it was in 2012.

Larger image available here

The amount of cycle traffic on CS5 has remained fairly constant, all the more so over the last two years. The peak is at Vauxhall Bridge, and the trough (2012 and 2013 only) is at Vauxhall Cross. Please note that the two-way segregated cycle track from Oval to Pimlico was completed after the traffic counts shown above were made.

Larger image available here

The most noteworthy thing to say about CS7 is that nearly 12000 cyclists passed through the check point identified by the blue marker in the maps below.

There is a convergence of several major roads along this section of CS7, with about 3500 cyclists joining the route from the A23 / A202.

Thanks to Google StreetView, it is possible to see how the cycling infrastructure here has changed over the years. When the photo on the left was taken in June 2008, about 7000 cycle journeys per day were recorded on this section of the A3. By the time the second photo was taken, in May 2012, the number of cycle journeys had increased to about 9000 per day. Now, finally, the evolution is complete. Even the central barrier fence has been removed.

Simon Munk from the London Cycling Campaign has recently written (here): "The first few Cycle Superhighways did not inspire cyclists. The segregated track on CS3 along Cable Street was already largely in place. And CS7 was just ‘blue paint’."

Never mind that the blue paint was a stepping stone to better things, never mind that the blue paint made cycling safer, during the time that the blue paint was in place on this section of CS7 — between the summer of 2010 and the autumn of 2015 — an additional 5000 cycle journeys per day took place.

Larger image available here

On CS8, there has been a more than 250% increase in the number of cyclists using Grosvenor Road.

The map above shows the AADF sites for both the North-South and East-West Superhighways. As with the CS5 segregated section, the two new CS routes opened after the traffic counts for 2015 were taken.

Larger image available here

Before the two Superhighways were installed, the level of cycle use on these two routes was already relatively high. In 2014, more than 11400 cyclists passed through CP6751 (the green-coloured marker in the map above).

Larger image available here
The two peaks on this chart relate to the yellow- and blue-coloured markers in the map above.


As a rule of thumb, the CS routes have contributed to a steady (if unspectacular) increase in the number of cycle journeys. In a few places, cyclists join the Superhighways from other major routes, creating spikes on the graphs. Not including the bridges and approaches to bridges, the most notable of these are (2015 figures):

Kennington Park Road (CS7): 11844 (7106 & 5518)
New Bridge Street (N-S): 10757 (3138 & 3147)
Millbank (CS8): 7626 (7235)
Grosvenor Road (CS8): 7235 (1956 & 7626)
Kennington Park Road (CS7): 7106 (4393 & 11844)
Victoria Embankment (E-W): 6933 (1586 & 2469)
Kennington Park Road (CS7): 5518 (11844 & 3213)
Whitechapel High Street (CS2): 4021 (1445)

The figures in parentheses show the AADF figures for the checkpoints either side of the highlighted one. About the only certain conclusion I can draw from the data is that cyclists do not behave like trains on a track. The relevant passage from Cycling: the way ahead is as follows: "According to his or her physical aptitudes, balance, agility, rapidity of reflexes and clarity of perception, the adult cyclist will instinctively choose his or her routes (major or secondary roads, cycle path or track, direct changes of direction or crossings on foot). Cyclists must therefore be enabled to circulate everywhere, on both secondary roads and major routes."

The National Propensity to Cycle Tool Project says that the main reason for developing cycle paths physically separated from busy roads is to "broaden the demographic appeal of cycling". The recently-completed cycleways were not finished in time to influence the traffic counts for 2015. We will therefore have to wait until next year to see how successful they have been.

Note dated 16/6/16: BikeBiz reports that cyclists have been flocking to use the new protected cycleways (here). Leon Daniels, MD of Surface Transport at TfL said, "Early cycle counts show that there has been an average 60 per cent increase in cyclists using the new routes when compared to before they were built,"

Thanks to research from the US (here), we know that about three-quarters of these "new" users were already using their bike for that trip — that is, existing cyclists have simply adjusted their route to take advantage of the improved facilities.

As People for Bikes explains: "That's evidence that protected bike lanes are better to ride in than conventional ones. But it's not the most important goal of protected lanes, which is to get a lot of people riding who aren't."

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