A new research paper published by the Department of Transport, Environment and the Regions confirms what we all know: bikes are the quickest form of urban transport

Bikes are best, says government

Yesterday the DETR released Journey times survey 1999 – Inner and Central London and this shows that cyclists beat cars, buses and the tube every time.

Signicantly, the testing is done door-to-door so car parking and queinng for a tube ticket are added to the journey time. Bizarrely, motorbikes are not used in the survey but it can be surmised that law-abiding motorcyclists will be slower than cyclists as well.

The survey is part of a series, which began in 1993, to monitor trends in average door-to-door journey times in different parts of London. Journey Times Survey 1999 – Inner and Central London covers short radial journeys between central and inner London and central journeys entirely within central London, and repeats the surveys carried out in 1993 and 1996.

The 1999 relationships between the journey times by different modes are broadly similar to the patterns in the previous 1993 and 1996 surveys. For both types of journey in each of the three surveys, bicycle was the fastest mode, followed by rail and car with similar journey times, with bus being the slowest mode. Average taxi times on central area journeys were similar to bicycle times but quicker than by car.

Journey times increased between 1993 and 1996 for all modes except bicycle. Excluding cars, the largest increases were on bus journeys and, in central London, on taxi journeys. Since 1996, however, there have been relatively small changes in bus, rail, taxi and bicycle journey times.

The main findings from the 1999 survey include:

Total journey times:

* For short radial journeys between central and inner London, the average time was 40 minutes for car, including the time taken to find a parking space allowing at least 4 hours parking time. The same journeys, on average, took 46 minutes by rail and 62 minutes by bus, including the time taken to walk to and from stations or bus stops, waiting and changing services. The fastest journeys were by bicycle taking 35 minutes on average. The average direct distance (as the crow flies) for these journeys was 3.9 miles, although the actual distance travelled was longer – the average on-road car distance was 5.1 miles.

* For journeys entirely within central London, the average time was 29 minutes by car compared with 32 minutes by rail and 40 minutes by bus. Again, the fastest journeys were by bicycle taking 18 minutes on average. These journeys were also surveyed by taxi, taking 21 minutes on average. The average direct distance for these journeys was 1.7 miles and the average on-road car distance was 2.4 miles.

Time spent in vehicle:

* The proportion of time spent in-vehicle varied considerably by mode – ranging from about a quarter of the total time for central area rail journeys to over 80 per cent for short radial car journeys. For bicycle journeys, over 90 per cent of the journey time on average was spent in the saddle.

Time spent walking at either end of a journey:

* These were, on average, 14 minutes for rail and 12 minutes for bus for short radial journeys, considerably longer than the 4 minutes for car journeys. For central area journeys, average walk times were 12 minutes for rail, 9 minutes for bus and 6 minutes for car journeys, reflecting the greater density of public transport provision and the difficulty in being able to park close to destination addresses in central London.

Waiting and other times for public transport:

* On average, waiting for a bus or train and other time spent (queuing for tickets within stations, walking to or from platforms and in changing between journey stages), together accounted for a third of the total journey time for rail journeys and a fifth of the total journey time for bus journeys.

Changes since 1993

Analysis of car results over time is hampered by a problem with the way car journeys were surveyed in 1996. The rules for parking were stricter in 1996 than in 1993 or 1999, resulting in parking places being used further away from destination addresses in many cases. This had the effect of artificially increasing car journey times in the 1996 survey. Changes between 1993 and 1999 provide a more representative picture of changing car journey times. Over this period, car journey times increased only marginally.

The changes reported are subject to a number of influences, such as different choice and length of routes and choice of parking spaces, in addition to changes in congestion. Whereas traffic clearly influences car journey speeds, and public transport journeys are obviously constrained by the frequency of the services, changes in bicycle journey times are more liable to be influenced by the particular cycling habits of the surveyors used, rather than the effect of the prevailing traffic conditions.

The survey results show sufficient consistency between modes to indicate that the gap between public transport and car journeys times has widened between 1993 and 1999 for both short radial and central area journeys.

The main emphasis with the Journey Times Survey (JTS) is to measure journey times by public transport vis-à-vis car (including taxis in central London). Bicycling was added to the survey given the strong policy interest. Motorcycling is not included in the survey as it is regarded that journey times would not be a sufficiently reliable indicator of changing traffic conditions, although motorcycling is likely to be the fastest mode.

The JTS aims to measure the average journey time for travelling the same fixed set of journeys by each mode. For consistency between journey types and modes, the traveller is assumed to be a visitor who has not made the trip before but refers to maps, timetables, etc before setting out.

The 1993, 1996 and 1999 surveys covered radial journeys between inner London and the central area, and journeys entirely within central London. The 1994 and 1997 surveys covered short and long journeys in inner London, and short journeys in outer London, and the 1995 and 1998 surveys covered radial journeys between outer and central London and long journeys in outer London.

The sample was chosen by a random selection of ‘real’ journeys recorded in the London Area Transport Survey (LATS) 1991. The sample was chosen to be representative of real journeys in geographic terms and by mode of transport. Each journey chosen was then travelled by all modes, not just the mode used in the original LATS journey. This means, however, that some of the journeys by public transport were less direct and involved more changes than the typical journey for which public transport would be chosen.

The report Journey Times Survey 1999 – Inner and Central London is published as a Statistics Bulletin by DETR/GSS. It is free of charge. Copies are obtainable from the Department of the Environment,Transport and the Regions, TSPT4 Branch, Zone 1/31, Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DR.

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