Where should London build new cycle routes? TfL has been making some maps

Some of London's busiest cycle routes. Image: TfL's Strategic Cycling Analysis.

“The Strategic Cycling Analysis identifies a number of schematic cycling connections which could contribute to the growth of cycling in London and help achieve the Mayor’s ambitions for Healthy Streets.”

...go on.

“This analysis allows TfL and boroughs to plan for cycling in a more strategic way that aligns with the Healthy Streets Approach.”


“It is not intended to be a completed, prescriptive or ‘top-down’ plan.”

Oh. Well, can’t have everything.

What we can have, though, is maps – lots and lots of lovely maps. If you’re a fan of maps (and if you’re not, why are you even reading this website?), then this is a great report.

Let’s check out some of the best map-y action, shall we?

This one represents “the current understanding of the 2022 network... more than 90km of Cycle Superhighways and 250km of Quietways”.

It shows, basically, what’s already on the table. The dotted purple represents planned quietways; the dotted pink the cycle superhighways. The solid green line are the routes that are already there.

In addition, the violet is the underwhelming “central London network”, while the yellow are the “mini-Holland schemes” in which three boroughs have made significant interventions on their own patch.

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It’s a bit confusing in places – the names of local authorities block out sections of line – and also at least slightly out of date. (Quietway 2, which connects the City to Hackney and Waltham Forest, is largely complete; I suspect it’s not the only one.)

But you can get a sense of London’s growing network of cycle routes. You can see that, as one might expect, plans are much more advanced in inner London.

In the suburbs, by contrast, routes bitty or broken. And some boroughs (Enfield, Kingston, Waltham Forest) are a lot more enthusiastic than others (Barnet, Bromley). Havering doesn’t get anything at all.

You can see that pattern in the next map, too. That one shows which roads currently see the most cyclists:

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Most of them are in an area stretching from Hammersmith to Hackney, and Wood Green down to Streatham. Perhaps surprisingly, though, the suburbs that see the most bikes are those to the south west.

But look – there’s so much untapped demand!

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“The map in Figure 1.2 shows much of the top potential cycle demand is on London’s strategic road network.”

...which means “on really big roads”. So, hmmm.

Anyway, let’s get onto the good stuff. This takes some decoding, but it’s worth it.

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Basically, this is the last two maps overlaid. The routes in green are those in the top 20 per cent of potential demand; those in yellow are those in the top 20 per cent of current demand. Those in red are both.

That suggests the red routes are the really key lines – those which aren’t in the top 20 per cent of current demand purely by circumstance, but because demand there is always likely to be really, really high. Overlaid on that are the blue bits, which mean current of planned cycle routes, plus the areas within 400m of them.

Take that all together, and red lines with no blue bit near them combine high current usage by cyclists, huge long term cyclist demand, and no current cycle route.

Which suggests they might be a good place to build new cycle routes, really.

But of course you need to take into account other things. One is whether the locals are likely to be big cyclists. So this map shows high demand routes, overlaid on areas where residents are more likely to cycle.

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It’s the latter that I find interesting: it excludes a lot of the greener bits of suburbia (Ruislip, Upminster, Orpington). The solidly Tory areas are off the table, while swing seats aren’t – which leads me to suspect there’s a socio-economic thing at work here.

Something else you want to consider when planning cycle routes is how much demand to get to or from a place is likely to change. So this map shows London’s big growth areas – whether that means homes or jobs.

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Nearly 40 years into the Docklands regeneration scheme, it’s still the east where the biggest opportunity lies. But other areas are in play, too: the Wandle Valley, down to Wimbledon; town centres like Croydon, Harrow or Romford; and riverside areas by the Lea or western Thames.

Put all that together, and – drumroll, please – you get some idea where it’d make most sense to build new cycling routes.  

Which brings us to our last map. These are not solid plans (rememeber that disclaimer at the top?), merely an indication of where investment might get the biggest bang for your buck.

Once again, green is the network already planned. Pink are routes which might make useful connections; orange are really useful, and red the most useful of all. (They’re all straight lines because they’re the digital equivalent of drawling on a map with a crayon.)

Basically, the red and orange routes are the ones that are most likely to get suburban quietways or superhighways one day.

Helpfully, the people who made the report have numbered them so you can see where they might go:

Click to expand.

There are a load more maps in the report, should you feel the need. You can read the whole thing here.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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Was the decline in Liverpool’s historic population really that unusual?

A view of Liverpool from Birkenhead. Image: Getty.

It is often reported that Liverpool’s population halved after the 1930s. But is this true? Or is it a myth?

Often, it’s simply assumed that it’s true. The end. Indeed, proud Londoner Lord Adonis – a leading proponent of the Liverpool-bypassing High Speed 2 railway, current chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, and generally a very influential person – stood on the stairs in Liverpool Town Hall in 2011 and said:

“The population of Liverpool has nearly halved in the last 50 years.”

This raises two questions. Firstly, did the population of the City of Liverpool really nearly halve in the 50 year period to 2011? That’s easy to check using this University of Portsmouth website – so I did just that (even though I knew he was wrong anyway). In 2011, the population of the City of Liverpool was 466,415. Fifty years earlier, in 1961, it was 737,637, which equates to a 37 per cent drop. Oops!

In fact, the City of Liverpool’s peak population was recorded in the 1931 Census as 846,302. Its lowest subsequent figure was recorded in the 2001 Census as 439,428 – which represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over a 70 year period.

Compare this to the population figures for the similarly sized City of Manchester. Its peak population also recorded in the 1931 Census as 748,729, and its lowest subsequent figure was also recorded in the 2001 Census, as 392,830. This also represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over the same 70 year period.

So, as can be seen here, Liverpool is not a special case at all. Which makes me wonder why it is often singled out or portrayed as exceptional in this regard, in the media and, indeed, by some badly briefed politicians. Even London has a similar story to tell, and it is told rather well in this recent article by a Londoner, for the Museum of London. (Editor’s note: It’s one of mine.)

This leads me onto the second question: where have all those people gone: London? The Moon? Mars?

Well, it turns out that the answer is bit boring and obvious actually: after World War 2, lots of people moved to the suburbs. You know: cars, commuter trains, slum clearance, the Blitz, all that stuff. In other words, Liverpool is just like many other places: after the war, this country experienced a depopulation bonanza.

So what form did this movement to the suburbs take, as far as Liverpool was concerned? Well, people moved and were moved to the suburbs of Greater Liverpool, in what are now the outer boroughs of the city region: Halton, Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral. Others moved further, to Cheshire West & Chester, West Lancashire, Warrington, even nearby North Wales, as previously discussed here.

In common with many cities, indeed, Liverpool City Council actually built and owned large several ‘New Town’ council estates, to which they moved tens of thousands of people to from Liverpool’s inner districts: Winsford in Cheshire West (where comedian John Bishop grew up), Runcorn in Halton (where comedian John Bishop also grew up), Skelmersdale in West Lancashire, Kirkby in Knowsley. There is nothing unique or sinister here about Liverpool (apart from comedian John Bishop). This was common practice across the country – Indeed, it was central government policy – and resulted in about 160,000 people being ‘removed’ from the Liverpool local authority area.

Many other people also moved to the nearby suburbs of Greater Liverpool to private housing – another trend reflected across the country. It’s worth acknowledging, however, that cities across the world are subject to a level of ‘churn’ in population, whereby many people move out and many people move in, over time, too.

So how did those prominent images of derelict streets in the inner-city part of the City of Liverpool local authority area come about? For that, you have to blame the last Labour government’s over-zealous ‘Housing Market Renewal Initiative’ (HMRI) disaster – and the over enthusiastic participation of the then-Lib Dem controlled city council. On the promise of ‘free’ money from central government, the latter removed hundreds of people from their homes with a view to demolishing the Victorian terraces, and building new replacements. Many of these houses, in truth, were already fully modernised, owner-occupied houses within viable and longstanding communities, as can be seen here in Voelas Street, one of the famous Welsh Streets of Liverpool:

Voelas Street before HMRI implementation. Image: WelshStreets.co.uk.

The same picture after HMRI implementation Image: WelshStreets.co.uk. 

Nonetheless: the council bought the houses and ‘tinned them up’ ready for demolition. Then the coalition Conservative/Lib Dem government, elected in 2010, pulled the plug on the scheme. 

Fast forward to 2017 and many of the condemned houses have been renovated, in a process which is still ongoing. These are over-subscribed when they come to market, suggesting that the idea was never appropriate for Liverpool on that scale. 

At any rate, it turns out that the Liverpool metropolitan population is pretty much the same as it was at its peak in 1931 (depending where the local borough boundaries are arbitrarily drawn). It just begs the question: why are well educated and supposedly clever people misrepresenting the Liverpool metropolis, in particular, in this way so often? Surely they aren’t stupid are they?

And why are some people so determined to always isolate the City of Liverpool from its hinterland, while London is always described in terms of its whole urban area? It just confuses and undermines what would otherwise often be worthwhile comparisons and discussions. Or, to put it another way: “never, ever, compare apples with larger urban zones”.

In a recent Channel 4 documentary, for example, the well-known and respected journalist Michael Burke directly compared the forecast population growths, by 2039, of the City of Liverpool single local authority area against that of the combined 33 local authority areas of Greater London: 42,722 versus 2.187,708. I mean, what bizarre point is such an inappropriate comparison even trying to make? It is like comparing the projected growth of a normal sized-person’s head with the projected growth of the whole of an obese person, over a protracted period.

Having said all that, there is an important sensible conversation to be had as to why the populations of the Greater Liverpool metropolis and others haven’t grown as fast as maybe should have been the case, whilst, in recent times, the Greater London population has been burgeoning. But constantly pitching it as some sort of rare local apocalypse helps no one.

Dave Mail has declared himself CityMetric’s Liverpool City Region correspondent. He will be updating us on the brave new world of Liverpool City Region, mostly monthly, in ‘E-mail from Liverpool City Region’ and he is on twitter @davemail2017.