Here’s everything we learned from the DfT’s database of daily road use statistics

Lovell Street, York: popular with cyclists. Image: Google.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has released averages of daily road use over 22,700 stretches of road across the country, counting cars and bicycles, motorbikes and mopeds, vans and lorries.

While the broad conclusions shouldn’t surprise anyone – motorways are busy, country roads in the Highlands aren’t – there are some interesting findings hidden in the spreadsheet. What’s more, we can look at where each of these places is using the handy co-ordinates supplied with the data.

Generally, higher population densities means more road users. Image: DfT.

Britain’s bike havens

There are only seven places in Britain where bicycles make up most of the road traffic. But where they do, they tend to outnumber it significantly. The crown goes to Lovell Street, a small street in York, which is pictured above. Probably thanks to its path to the quite lovely Rowntree Park in the south of the city, it sees 96 bikes a day pass through, but just 13 other vehicles.

Further down the list is Cable Street in the East End, best known for a 1936 incident in which Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists were robustly challenged in the marketplace of ideas. Cycle Superhighway 3 runs along the street, which is probably a better explanation than an obscure fascist ritual.

With no shade to the residents of Fairacres Road in Oxford, it’s a street of modest interwar semis with unkempt hedges and a bicycle in every other front garden. It’s located between a bike shop, a set of allotments and sits adjacent to the local convent – you get the feeling Jeremy Corbyn would feel right at home there. It’s not top of the list, but while the other roads tend to attract bikes through pragmatism, this feels more than any other like the stereotype we’d expect.


Death on two wheels

The line between A roads and motorways can be a blurry one, particularly when it comes to the routes into and out of major cities. The A2 from London to Dover, for example, is busier than many strips of motorway outside the capital (and about to jam up completely once we crash out of the EU without a deal).

One key distinction is for cyclists, however – it’s illegal to ride a bicycle on a motorway, but not on most A roads.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, and most cyclists wisely avoid that cascade of cars and lorries heading into Central London – but the data shows that every day, one person insists on making their commute on the A406 from Ilford to Walthamstow by bike, alongside 123,000 other vehicles sharing the 21st busiest strip of road in the UK. If you’re reading this article (and if you’re that into bikes, there’s a good chance) please stop. We’re all very concerned.

 

The road in question. Image: Google.

Londoners love motorbikes (and Scots don’t)

The street with the most motorbike and scooter traffic is Arlington Way in Islington, also one of the places with the most pedal bike traffic: 21 per cent of motorised vehicles travelling down this otherwise unremarkable street behind the Sadler’s Wells Theatre are two-wheeled, which is high, but not that unusual for the capital.

Of the 100 roads with the highest motorbike and scooter use in Britain, 93 are in London, although Wordsworth Avenue in Hartlepool and a stretch of the B6277 in rural County Durham get a confusing shout out. London’s high density, short journeys and thriving courier and food delivery industries account for most of their prevalence, combined with the heavy traffic and high running costs of cars which are more easily avoided with a bike.

High density, easily negotiable geography and dietary variety are the opposite of much of Scotland, so it’s somewhat understandable that 55 of the 100 roads with least motorbikes are located there. The climate won’t help, with wet conditions and winding roads not being conducive to safe riding.

A stretch of the North Coast 500. Image: Google.

But there is one exception – the North Coast 500, a tourist route devised in 2014, is a popular route with bikers, tracing the furthest extremes of the Highlands for 500 miles between Inverness and Ullapool. As a result, the A838, which covers most of the western half of the route, sees roughly 15 per cent of its traffic from motorcyclists.

The busiest counties

The DfT helpfully breaks down its figures by local authority area, allowing us to chart the 209 local areas where daily traffic is heaviest and lightest.

Generally, this tracks closely to population – roads are empty on Orkney and busy in Central London – but it also correlates well with an authority’s propensity for commuting and whether it contains a motorway. Birmingham only comes in middle of the pack in the West Midlands, where the busiest roads are found in Solihull, Warwickshire, Sandwell and Walsall. Leeds comes top in Yorkshire and the Humber, but Sheffield and York are beaten by Wakefield and Rotherham.

Residents of the Scilly Isles see the least activity, with an average of 922 vehicles per day passing through any given road. Since the largest island, St. Mary’s, can be crossed on foot in under an hour, it doesn’t seem like the sort of place that would support a daily commute. On the other hand Slough, containing the M4, a chunk of the M25, and a significant slice of commuter belt, tops the list by playing host to an average of 38,000 vehicles per road, per day.

 
 
 
 

London’s rail and tube map is out of control

Aaaaaargh. Image: Getty.

The geographical limits of London’s official rail maps have always been slightly arbitrary. Far-flung commuter towns like Amersham, Chesham and Epping are all on there, because they have tube stations. Meanwhile, places like Esher or Walton-on-Thames – much closer to the city proper, inside the M25, and a contiguous part of the built up area – aren’t, because they fall outside the Greater London and aren’t served by Transport for London (TfL) services. This is pretty aggravating, but we are where we are.

But then a few years ago, TfL decided to show more non-London services on its combined Tube & Rail Map. It started with a few stations slightly outside the city limits, but where you could you use your Oyster card. Then said card started being accepted at Gatwick Airport station – and so, since how to get to a major airport is a fairly useful piece of information to impart to passengers, TfL’s cartographers added that line too, even though it meant including stations bloody miles away.

And now the latest version seems to have cast all logic to the wind. Look at this:

Oh, no. Click to expand. Image: TfL.

The logic for including the line to Reading is that it’s now served by TfL Rail, a route which will be part of the Elizabeth Line/Crossrail, when they eventually, finally happen. But you can tell something’s gone wrong here from the fact that showing the route, to a town which is well known for being directly west of London, requires an awkward right-angle which makes it look like the line turns north, presumably because otherwise there’d be no way of showing it on the map.

What’s more, this means that a station 36 miles from central London gets to be on the map, while Esher – barely a third of that distance out – doesn’t. Nor does Windsor & Eton Central, because it’s served by a branchline from Slough rather than TfL Rail trains, even though as a fairly major tourist destination it’d probably be the sort of place that at least some users of this map might want to know how to get to.

There’s more. Luton Airport Parkway is now on the map, presumably on the basis that Gatwick is. But that station doesn’t accept Oyster cards yet, so you get this:

Gah. Click to expand. Image: TfL.

There’s a line, incidentally, between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey, which is just down the road from St Albans City. Is that line shown on the map? No it is not.

Also not shown on the map: either Luton itself, just one stop up the line from Luton Airport Parkway, or Stansted Airport, even though it’s an airport and not much further out than places which are on the map. Somewhere that is, however, is Welwyn Garden City, which doesn’t accept Oyster, isn’t served by TfL trains and also – this feels important – isn’t an airport.

And meanwhile a large chunk of Surrey suburbia inside the M25 isn’t shown, even though it must have a greater claim to be a part of London’s rail network than bloody Reading.

The result of all these decisions is that the map covers an entirely baffling area whose shape makes no sense whatsoever. Here’s an extremely rough map:

Just, what? Image: Google Maps/CityMetric.

I mean that’s just ridiculous isn’t it.

While we’re at it: the latest version shows the piers from which you can get boats on the Thames. Except for when it doesn’t because they’re not near a station – for example, Greenland Pier, just across the Thames to the west of the Isle of Dogs, shown here with CityMetric’s usual artistic flair.

Spot the missing pier. You can’t, because it’s missing. Image: TfL/CityMetric.

I’m sure there must be a logic to all of this. It’s just that I fear the logic is “what makes life easier for the TfL cartography team” rather than “what is actually valuable information for London’s rail passengers”.

And don’t even get me started on this monstrosity.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.