London Cycling Campaign debunks Transport for London's new flawed Blackfriars statistics

A recent Transport for London press release put a whole new spin on the traffic numbers for the Blackfriars area.

Before we point out the errors in the numbers, we must say first that it’s great to see TfL at last emphasising the needs of the 10,000 pedestrians per hour coming out of Blackfriars station.

This is interesting because TfL’s recent draft Network Operating Strategy completely fails to register that bus and rail passengers are also pedestrians.

Does this development signal that TfL will scrap its flawed NOS, and stop using motor vehicle modelling as the sole basis for street design, or are pedestrians at Blackfriars simply being used as an excuse to downgrade the needs of cyclists?

We shall see…

Going back to the numbers, we find that TfL has used the rail passenger figures to re-calculate shares of traffic, now claiming that cyclists make up only 6% of people using Blackfriars junction, outnumbered by bus (11%) and taxi passengers (8%).

This contradicts earlier data that shows over 30% of bridge users are cyclists at during the morning rush hour.

Naturally, we asked TfL for the latest raw data, but haven't received anything yet - perhaps this is because the person in charge of Freedom of Information requests at TfL has just resigned? (We suspect they've had a busier-than-expected summer.)

Undeterred, we visited Blackfriars last Thursday morning to count the buses, taxi passengers and cyclists ourselves.

We concentrated on the northern junction of the bridge, counting road users travelling north and south along the bridge, along with those heading to and from the Embankment.

We didn't count all those going from New Bridge Street to Queen Victoria Street, or the other way.

In one hour we counted:

Buses 42
Taxi passengers 425
Cyclists 1206

Buses 33
Taxi passengers 76
Cyclists 391

Total traffic
Buses 4000 passengers (*see notes below)
Cyclists 1597
Taxi passengers 501
Pedestrians 10,000

*Most buses going into the city were jammed, while those going south were less full. Buses to and from the Embankment had about a dozen passengers each. Overall, we estimated 4000 bus passengers.

Hundreds of southbound taxis had zero passengers. On average, each taxi on the road had less than one passenger, which is a lot of wasted road space.

Our estimates of traffic (including 10,000 pedestrians)
Cyclists 10%
Buses 25%
Taxis 3%

Transport for London estimates
Cyclists 6%
Buses 11%
Taxis 8%

Why are these very different from TfL numbers? Well, if they used 24-hour data, counting all the late-night party-goers that bump up the taxi numbers.

Ours was only a snapshot survey, suggesting more space is needed for cyclists and buses in peak hour.

Whichever way you look at it, the current TfL design - being built right now - was designed by modelling motor vehicle movements, but when you look at the people movements it’s clear the design should be scrapped immediately.


  • By smsm1 at 4:34pm 5 August 2011

How many cars were counted? How many other vehicles (vans etc)?

  • By PaulM at 5:25pm 8 August 2011

You refer to earlier data dating to 2008 but in fact there is more recent data available (Danny at cyclistsinthecity has it) which shows that cycling now accounts for even more of the Blackfriars traffic at peak hours - 35.6% in 2010, cf 31% for taxis and private cars combined.  I believe the same data (screenline counts from TfL itself) indicates that around the 24 hour clock cyclists account for 16% of Blackfriars traffic.

Anyway, TfL is notorious for conjuring tricks with statistics, giving weight to Disraeli's famous remark that there are lies, damned lies, etc.  Here they conflate pedestrians with other traffic - something they have always refused to countenance elsewhere, denying the definition in the Traffic Management Act - because it makes the cyclists' total look relatively small so that it can be ignored.

Another fine example of their distraction crimes is the statement in the Network operating Strategy consultation, that "51% of cyclists and car drivers, who were awae of the trial, support the motorcycles in bus lane trial".  Quite apart from wondering what those who were unaware of the trial felt, that statement could easily hide the position that in fact a larger majority of motorists aproved - because it makes no difference ot them apart from perhaps making them jealous - while a significant majority of cyclists, who really are affected by the trial, whether adversely or not, disapprove.

Then there is the finding in the same document about the effect of traffic light retiming on traffic and pedestrians - making the entirely spurious observation that 99+% of peds still get across on the next green man while materially more vehicles get through on the next green light, but without any reference to how long the peds now have to wait for the man to go green.

We can't win the arument by parsing statistics however, we need to get out there and flash-ride more often!

  • By smsm1 at 10:59pm 11 August 2011

I wanna see a flash ride circling City Hall and see how happy all the assembly members would be in the morning having to get past all the cyclists to get in the building.

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