Here are six more cool maps of London’s transport network

Look, a bus! Image: RhysGeoffrey/Wikimedia commons.

Maps. Maps are great, aren’t they? We love maps.

Maps.

Sorry, lost my train of thought for a moment there. (Mmmm. Trains.) Anyway. Last week I published a faintly gratuitous piece rounding up 11 of the best rail maps from the mayor of London’s Transport Strategy. They were good maps.

But there’s more to that strategy than just the rail network. So here, because maps are great, are some more great maps.

1. The travel times map

First up, this map shows how long it takes to travel from every part of Greater London to the “central activities zone” (CAZ: the City, West End, South Bank and so forth). Basically, it’s a map of how well-connected different bits of the city are to the public transport network: the darker the shade of red, the quicker it is to get to somewhere that feels like central London.

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A couple of things leap out at me here. One is that being near to the right station can massively cut your travel times. Look at that red patch at the very eastern end of the map: that’s the area around Upminster station, right on the edge of London, but with enough fast trains to Fenchurch Street to be better connected than many places much closer to the CAZ. Wherever there’s an island darker than the land around it, that suggests the presence of a decent station.

The other thing that jumps out at me is that the tube is really much better than the alternatives. In north west London, which is heavily served by tube lines, the dark pink of a sub-45 minute travel time extends almost to the edge of the city. In the south east, which is almost tube free, the lighter pink which means journeys of up to an hour extends deep into inner London.

2. The access to jobs map

This is a variation on a theme, really, showing how many jobs you can get to within 45 minutes. In practice, the geography it reveals is not that dissimilar from the travel times map – which shows quite how many jobs lie within the Central Activities Zone.

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The only big difference I can see is that there are fewer of those ‘islands’ around stations. This, I suspect, is because the bar is effectively higher on this map. There will be many outer London stations from which you can get reach some part of central London within 45 minutes – but being able to reach a single point in central London is not the same as being able to reach the millions of jobs the entire CAZ contains.

3. The future access to jobs map

Our next map is similar, but more speculative. The transport strategy as a whole is making the case for a bunch of investment in London’s transport network. This map shows how many more jobs Londoners will be able to reach if the authorities actually get their way:

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And suddenly, that dark green area – which roughly translates as, “Wow, look at all those jobs!” – has massively expanded, to take in most of inner London. Build all these extra transport links, the map seems to say, and let the good times roll.

But not for everywhere. I said the dark green area now took in most of inner London, and that’s true, north of the river or west of Brixton. But south east London, once again, is a different world. Sorry, lads.

4. The bus map

This one tells us both about the existing bus network, and how it might develop in future.

The red lines show the busiest bus corridors. As one might expect, they’re largely in central and inner London, and there’s a bias towards the north east, where the tube network is a patchy. But there are very busy routes around many of London’s suburban town centres, too.

 

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The map also shows the four major suburban transport hubs that TfL is developing in zones 2 and 3; and, in yellow, the low emissions bus zons.

Perhaps the most interesting thing here, though, are the “express and limited stop corridors”. There are already a few routes serving such corridors, such as the X68, which runs from Croydon to Bloomsbury (shown here as a solid purple line). But the profusion of broken and dotted lines in violet suggest a major future expansion of that part of London’s transport network. These would be particularly useful as orbital connections – something that the outer London rail network rarely provides.

5. The Silvertown Tunnel bus map

Something that might help improve orbital connections, and better link south east London to the rest of the city, would be more Thames Crossings out east, where there are currently so few of them.

The most likely of these to go ahead is the Silvertown Tunnel, which would link the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks and relieve the Blackwall Tunnel in the process. This, the strategy suggests, would enable more buses from Eltham, Charlton and Greenwich on one side of the river, to Canary Wharf, Stratford and London City Airport on the other.

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This is one hell of an “if”, of course. There’s a fairly noisy campaign in South East London against the tunnel, on the grounds it will mainly serve to bring pollution and traffic. We shall see.

Still, you know what’s better than buses? Bikes.

6. The strategic cycle network map

This is the capital’s “strategic cycle network”. The thick red lines are the existing routes – the Cycling Superhighways and Quietways, that have been spreading across the capital over the last few years. The thin red lines are those that are currently planned, and the green dotted lines are possible later connections.

If all this is delivered, the strategy says, 70 per cent of Londoners would live within 400m of a cycle route – a distance you can cycle in a couple of minutes.

Click to expand.

I remain at least slightly sceptical. For one thing, the implementation of such routes is dependent on the enthusiastic cooperation of the boroughs, which control the capital’s local roads. Note the way those thick red lines just stop as you pass from Westminster to Kensington & Chelsea, a borough not known for its enthusiasm for cyclists.


The other source of my scepticism is that TfL has always been quite cagey about what the different grades of cycle route mean. Some of the cycling superhighways are proper segregated routes – but others, like CS1, share backstreets with motor vehicles. It’s not clear how that really differs from a Quietway – or, indeed, how Quietways differ from the long-standing but largely forgotten London Cycle Network.

So, yes, a proper city-wide cycling network of this sort would be lovely. But I am not entirely convinced we are going to get one – even by 2041.

Still, though – maps, eh? Cor.

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

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Cycling on London’s Euston Road is still a terrifying experience

Cyclists on the Euston Road. Image: Jonn Elledge.

The New Road, which skirted the northern boundaries of London’s built up area, first opened in the 1750s. Originally, it was intended to link up outlying villages and provide a route to drive sheep and cows to the meat market at Smithfield without having to pass through the congested city centre. 

As with bypasses and ring roads the world over, however, it increasingly became congested in its own right. Today, you won’t often find livestock on the route, which is now Marylebone, Euston and City roads. But you will find up to six lanes of often stationary buses, cabs, and private vehicles. In a city whose centre is largely free of multi-lane highways, London’s northern ring road has long been the sort of abomination that you avoid at all costs.

But now, somewhat surprisingly, the road is seeing yet another new use. Earlier this week, the first phase of a temporary cycle lane opened on the Euston Road, the middle section of the route which runs for roughly a mile. As London rethinks roads throughout the city, this addition to the cycling map falls solidly into the category of streets that didn't seem like candidates for cycling before the pandemic.

It is, to be clear, temporary. That’s true of many of the Covid-led interventions that Transport for London is currently making, though those in the know will often quietly admit to hoping they end up being permanent. In this case, however, the agency genuinely seems to mean it: TfL emphasized in its press release that the road space is already being allocated for construction starting late next year and that "TfL will work with local boroughs to develop alternate routes along side streets" when the cycle lane is removed.

At lunchtime on Friday, I decided to try the lane for myself to understand what an unlikely, temporary cycle lane can accomplish. In this case it's clear that the presence of a lane only accomplishes so much. A few key things will still leave riders wanting:

It’s one way only. To be specific, eastbound. I found this out the hard way, after attempting to cycle the Euston Road westbound, under the naive impression that there was now a lane for me in which to do this. Neither I nor the traffic I unexpectedly found myself sharing space with enjoyed the experience. To be fair, London’s cycling commissioner Will Norman had shared this information on Twitter, but cyclists might find themselves inadvertently mixing with multiple lanes of much, much bigger vehicles.

It radically changes in width. At times the westbound route, which is separated from the motor traffic by upright posts, is perhaps a metre and a half wide. At others, such as immediately outside Euston station, it’s shared with buses and is suddenly four or five times that. This is slightly vexing.

It’s extremely short. The publicity for the new lane said it would connect up with other cycle routes on Hampstead Road and Judd Street (where Cycleway 6, the main north-south crosstown route, meets Euston Road). That’s a distance of roughly 925m. It actually runs from Gower Street to Ossulton Street, a distance of barely 670m. Not only does the reduced length mean it doesn’t quite connect to the rest of the network, it also means that the segregated space suddenly stops:

The junction between Euston Road and Ousslston Street, where the segregated lane suddenly, unexpectedly stops. Image: Jonn Elledge.

 

It’s for these reasons, perhaps, that the new lane is not yet seeing many users. Each time I cycled the length of it I saw only a handful of other cyclists (although that did include a man cycling with a child on a seat behind him – not something one would have expected on the Euston Road of the past).


Though I hesitate to mention this because it feeds into the car lobby’s agenda, it was also striking that the westbound traffic – the side of the road which had lost a lane to bikes – was significantly more congested than the eastbound. If the lane is extended, it could, counterintuitively, help, by removing the unexpected pinch points at which three lanes of cars suddenly have to squeeze into two.

There’s a distinctly unfinished air to the project – though, to be fair, it’s early days. The eastbound lane needs to be created from scratch; the westbound extended. At that point, it would hopefully be something TfL would be keen enough to talk about that cyclists start using it in greater numbers – and drivers get the message they should avoid the Euston Road.

The obvious explanation for why TfL is going to all this trouble is that TfL is in charge of the Euston Road, and so can do what it likes there. Building cycle lanes on side nearby roads means working with the boroughs, and that’s inevitably more difficult and time consuming.

But if the long-term plan is to push cyclists via side roads anyway, it’s questionable whether all this disruption is worth it. A segregated cycle lane that stops without warning and leaves you fighting for space with three lanes of buses, lorries, and cabs is a cycle lane that’s of no use at all.

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