Tuesday, 15 February 2011

London Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge - people who commute here in a private motor car are very much the odd-ball minority


London Bridge - volume of vehicles 7-10am northbound
 I've spent some time analysing in more detail the Transport for London 'screenline data' that shows the manual counts of vehicles passing over London's bridges. I profiled this last week here, when I showed that bicycles are now the majority of traffic passing over London's bridges northbound in the morning rush hour.
I wanted to take a look at a couple of the bridges leading to the City of London in particular.

First up, London Bridge. The number of bicycles crossing north from 7am - 10am has boomed from only 320 bicycles in 1990 to 1,545 in 2010. That's actually down sligthtly on 2008 when there were 1,770. By contrast, private cars are down from 2,158 to only 665 in the same period. It's worth noting that the number of taxis has stayed more or less constant in that period, with blips here and there.
Blackfriars Bridge - 7-10am northbound vehicle volumes

The change is more dramatic on Blackfriars Bridge, however.

It's only a few years ago that this bridge had incredibly nasty bicycle lanes hovering down the middle of the northbound carriageway. If you can't remember just how grim this road used to be, have a look at these images here. Two cyclists were killed on these lanes in relatively short succession. The road was narrowed in 2006 and a relatively useful lane for bicycles introduced plus a permanent bus lane. In short, the bridge was literally a death trap.

Blackfriars Bridge as it used to be. Thanks
to our sister site, CityCyclists
It's still got some nasty surprises (more on that below) but the changes have resulted in a massive swing towards cycling. There are now 1,926 bicycles a day heading north on this bridge in the rush-hour. That's up from 432 in 1990 and generally lethargic numbers right through to 2004 when things really started to change. Although, once again, it's interesting to note that taxi volumes are ever so slightly on an upward trend.

In any case, bicycles now comprise 35.6% of the total traffic on Blackfriars Bridge heading north in the mornings. That's more than any other mode of transport and higher than private motor cars and taxis combined (31.9%).

On that basis, I still can't see why, when I'm cycling northbound, I should consistently be made to feel that cars have priority. They're bigger and faster than me. If I want to turn right, I need to be able to pace it in front of two lanes of traffic (taxis can clog up the bus lane quite happily) to get into the right hand lane. If I want to go straight on, I find the bicycle lane narrows to a strip that's no wider than my handle bars. And bear in mind, that on a typical green traffic light phase, there will be up to 40 bicycles squeezing through that tiny lane.