So here’s a thing. London drivers cycle as well as getting behind the wheel. Not only that, they use the tube and take the train. So much for the Capital’s motorists being defined by the car. They care as much about other transport issues as they do about how they might best get about on their own four wheels.
A survey for the RAC Foundation of 2,000 London car users shows that in the course of a week roughly:
- Half use the underground at least once
- A third take the train
- And one in six cycle
Just as telling, when asked what improvements they would make to transport in London, the most popular response was a reduction in public transport fares. This was followed by speedier road works and increased parking provision. There was also a call for reduced waiting times at traffic lights, longer tube/bus operating hours and easier to understand traffic regulations.
Our survey has been published on the same day that the Mayor’s Roads Task Force has reported. The study underlines the importance of the roads to the economic fabric of the capital. And there is no escaping the fact that for all the other modes of transport on offer in London, the car is still dominant. TfL’s own figures (from Travel in London 5, January 2013) show that half of all Londoners’ travel mileage (excluding walking) is by car, rising to three-quarters of all mileage in outer London.
The report’s recommendations are a mixture of the immediate and intermediate and chime with the concerns of London’s drivers reflected in our poll.
Most of the short term fixes are not new and are to varying degrees are already being implemented, but their importance is underlined in the report:
- Extend traffic signal technology to smooth traffic flow
- Speed up the time taken to clear incidents
- Give better real time information about road congestion
- Tackle pinchpoints, especially at junctions
- Provide better quality and clearer information about parking
Longer term it is exciting to see tunnelling projects akin to ‘cross rail for cars’ being discussed. Space is at a premium in London and we have to use imaginative ways of generating new road capacity to replace road space allocated for other improvements to the quality of life in London. Going underground has been successful in cities such as Paris and Munich, and of course is no novelty to Tube passengers. Funding will be the challenge, but with 80% of London’s journeys on the road network, a commitment to investment on a scale comparable to that for public transport in the capital is necessary and overdue.