What about London's cycling revolution?

London has certainly seen some impressive increases in the number of bikes visible on the roads, particularly in the centre. However, this increase needs to be put into perspective.

For a start, cycling rates are still only 2% of all journeys, up from 1.2% in 2000, with a target of just 5% by 2031, which would not even put London into the top ten UK cycling cities. Secondly, much of the increase has come about because of existing cyclists taking more journeys by bike. Many of those new to cycling who are attracted by the Barclays Bicycle hire scheme, the bicycle superhighways and other high-profile investments, are merely replacing ex-cyclists who have given up because of the hostile nature of the roads in London in general.

London also has a number of ‘push’ factors as well as pull factors attracting cycling: the congestion charge, the difficulty of parking in central London, the crowding on the tubes (and tube strikes) and low rates of car ownership and high levels of congestion. These make driving a car far less attractive than it is in many other parts of the country.

And when you move away from the centre of the city and look at the outer boroughs where none of these factors are as much of an issue, then apart from Richmond upon Thames, cycling rates are lower than they are in many parts of the rest of the country, with less than 1% of trips by bike in places like Bromley, Harrow, Enfield and Waltham Forest. As to why people don’t cycle more in London (or, indeed, in the rest of the UK) the answer is always the same: they don’t feel safe.16