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.

 
 
 
 

Community-powered policies should be at the top of Westminster’s to do list

A generic election picture. Image: Getty.

Over the past five decades, political and economic power has become increasingly concentrated in the UK’s capital. Communities feel ignored or alienated by a politics that feels distant and unrepresentative of their daily experiences.

Since the EU referendum result it has become something of a cliché to talk about how to respond to the sense of powerlessness felt by too many people. The foundations of our economy have been shifted by Brexit, technology and deindustrialisation – and these have shone a light on a growing divergence in views and values across geographies and generations. They are both a symptom and cause of the breakdown of the ties that traditionally brought people together.

As the country goes through seismic changes in its outlook, politics and economy, it is clear that a new way of doing politics is needed. Empowering people to take control over the things that affect their daily lives cannot be done from the top down.

Last week, the Co-operative Party launched our policy platform for the General Election – the ideas and priorities we hope to see at the top of the next Parliament’s to do list. We have been the voice for co-operative values and principles in the places where decisions are made and laws are made. As co-operators, we believe that the principles that lie behind successful co‑operatives – democratic control by customers and workers, and a fair share of the wealth we create together – ought to extend to the wider economy and our society. As Labour’s sister party, we campaign for a government that puts these shared values into practice.

Our policy platform has community power at its heart, because the co-operative movement, founded on shop floors and factory production lines, knows that power should flow from the bottom up. Today, this principle holds strong – decisions are best made by the people impacted the most by them, and services work best when the service users have a voice. Our policy platform is clear: this means shifting power from Whitehall to local government, but it also means looking beyond the town hall. Co-operative approaches are about placing power directly in the hands of people and communities.


There are many great examples of Co-operative councillors and local communities taking the lead on this. Co-operative councils like Oldham and Plymouth have pioneered new working relationships with residents, underpinned by a genuine commitment to working with communities rather than merely doing things to them.

Building a fairer future is, by definition, a bottom-up endeavour. Oldham, Plymouth and examples like the Elephant Project in Greater Manchester, where people with experience of disadvantage are involved in decision-making, or buses in Witney run by Co-operative councillors and the local community – are the building blocks of creating a better politics and a fairer economy.

This thread runs through our work over the last few years on community wealth building too – keeping wealth circulating in local economies through growing the local co-operative sector. Worker-owned businesses thriving at the expense of global corporate giants and private outsourcers. Assets owned by communities – from pubs to post offices to rooftop solar panels.

And it runs through our work in Westminster too – with Co-operative MPs and peers calling for parents, not private business, to own and run nurseries; for the stewards of our countryside to be farmers rather than big landowners; and for workers to have a stake in their workplaces and a share of the profit.

Far from being ignored, as suggested in last week’s article on community power, our work has never been more relevant and our co-operative voice is louder than ever.

Anna Birley is policy offer at the Co-operative party.