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.

Click to expand.

It’s a bit confusing in places – the names of local authorities block out sections of line – and also at least slightly out of date.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.

Click to expand.

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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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.