What we learned from this map of London's cycle commutes

The map shows data on London's cycling commuters. Image: Strava.

Strava, a running and cycling logging app, has bundled together all the data from its cycling commuter users and created a map and a few key bits of data showing how Londoners cycle to work. Here's what we learned. 

London commutes by bike more than any other city in the world

This is only based on Strava's data, and it compares the number of commutes directly, not per capita, some some health warnings apply – but, according to this dataset at least, Londoners commute the most out of any other city, with almost 10,000 rides uploaded every day. Well done, London.

People cycle most on Tuesdays

Based on Strava's data for bike commuting all around the world, Tuesday is the most popular day for bike commuting. We can sort of see why: your willpower is strongest post-Monday and before all motivation drains away later in the week. 

Commuters can't be bothered with smaller roads

The blog Googlemapsmania compared this map with another made by Strava which shows the routes taken by all cyclists, rather than just commuters'. The comparison suggets that commuter cyclists are much keener on the main roads, giving the dark orange colour to main routes in the map above. 

On the more general map, however, differently sized roads seem to be used more evenly, probably because these cyclists aren't so bothered about travelling quickly by using main arteries:

Londoners from the south west seem more likely to cycle

Across most of the map, the major cycling arteries fizzle out once you get out of innter London. To the city's south west, though, there are widely-used cycle routes as far away as Epsom and Teddington. 

This could be to do with Strava's data: perhaps wealthy south westerners are more likely to use the technology, which would skew things.

Still, it's pretty impressive - especially considering the Boris bikes only get as far as Putney. 


What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.

Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

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