It can be very difficult to know which London boroughs are doing the best with making cycling enjoyable and safe. Since 2019, the London Boroughs Healthy Streets Scorecard Coalition has published an annual ‘scorecard,’ that adds up data streams about road safety, the types of transport people use for their journeys, numbers of cycle tracks, and much more, to create a snapshot of a London borough’s performance.
LCC has been part of that coalition since the beginning. The 2021 scorecard has now been published: this is our analysis of its findings.
The scorecard is calculated using publicly available annual data. Regrettably, this does mean there are some limitations on how informative the scorecard can be. We don’t have access to detailed London-wide data on many things we’d like, such as inclusive design, mode share of transport by children, public perceptions of whether it is safe to cycle in their borough, and much more. It’s always going to be a compromise and the coalition is open to new ideas about how to calculate the scorecard.
We encourage you to read the individual borough scorecards, not just look at the ‘rankings.’ Not least because of the structural differences between inner and outer London boroughs (see below). Each borough’s scorecard is accompanied by a qualitative analysis of the borough. For instance, even though a borough may have a similar ‘number’ to another, we are conscious that data on its own can only tell part of the story, and it needs to be qualified by factoring in the lived experience of people cycling and walking in these boroughs.
The scorecard number, between 1 and 10, is decided using an equation based on nine indicators. These are split into five ‘input’ metrics (e.g. how many cycle tracks there are in a borough) and four ‘outcome’ indicators (e.g. road safety data).
The ‘inputs’ are actions that every London borough should be able to roll out fairly rapidly, and can access funding for, if the political will to deliver is there. The outcomes are the long-term results of boroughs’ action (or inaction): road danger levels for those walking and cycling; mode share; regular active travel levels; car ownership. This year’s report updates the metrics to include action by boroughs during the Covid crisis and the Mayor’s “Streetspace” programme.
This year’s results show that many boroughs – more than ever – have grasped the need for rapid and bold action on not just avoiding a car-led recovery from Covid, but also on the climate emergency nearly every London borough has declared. The pace of change in some boroughs has been nothing short of transformative.
However, not only are some boroughs lagging behind on pace of action and in several specific key areas, most often cycling and restrictions to car use, but the overall pace in London, given how far behind we are on reducing car use compared to other global cities, is of major concern.
If the Mayor is to meet his target to decarbonise London transport by 2030, and indeed even to meet his (now probably too weak) 2041 Transport Strategy targets – such as reducing car use to 20% mode share – every borough needs to do as much as the top-performing boroughs.
Islington council, after a year of rapid roll-out of not just several Low Traffic Neighbourhoods but also main road cycle tracks and school streets, has claimed the top spot on the scorecard ‘leader board.’ And Waltham Forest finally tops the outer London boroughs, having continued to add to its mini-Holland funded schemes every year, and during the crisis, with many more improvements such as cycle tracks and school streets (timed or permanent closures of streets close to schools).
Inner and outer London boroughs will always perform somewhat differently on the scorecard, owing to their very different availability of public transport, and their differences in housing density, wealth and more. But across both inner and outer London, we’ve seen very rapid action on 20 mile per hour speed limits, and in specific boroughs, school streets, LTNs and cycle tracks.
Islington is followed by Hackney, then Camden. We exclude the City of London, as it has so few residents and that skews its results, but aggregate its data any way for the purposes of completion. In outer London, it is now Waltham Forest far out in front, then Merton and Richmond.
Significantly behind other inner London boroughs is Lewisham, then Newham and Haringey. In outer London, it’s Hillingdon at the very bottom of the Scorecard, then Havering and Redbridge – which this year cancelled several LTNs after having half-implemented two. This is a great disappointment: after a year in which the UK Government clearly established a strategy to enable safe and enjoyable cycle transport, and a London Mayoral Election which’s result showed overwhelming support for bold action to cut volumes of traffic and enable safe cycling, this isn’t good enough.
Protected cycle tracks 2021View larger image
Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) roll-out in 2020 (areas in which drivers can access streets, but not drive through them)View larger image
Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) 2021View larger image
Two of the scorecard’s ‘input indicators’ see the widest divergence. About ten boroughs in London now have a blanket speed limit of 20mph on all non-motorway roads – several implemented in the last year. But at the other end of the scale, boroughs such as Barnet, Bromley and Hillingdon have less than 10% of their roads limited to 20mph. Similarly, while progress hasn’t been as rapid in the last year, boroughs such as Bromely, Sutton and Redbridge see 10% or less of their roads requiring a permit to park a car; while five boroughs – Wesminster, Tower Hamlets, Kensington & Chelsea, Islington and the City – all require a parking permit on every road.
We don’t often campaign on controlled parking zones (CPZs) at LCC – our strategy is more focused on low-traffic neighbourhoods rather than just limiting parking – but they do make a difference. CPZs reduce traffic and pollution on streets by discouraging drivers from driving through side streets looking for a parking location, and the less driving on narrow side-streets, the better, because side streets are more narrow and have many more bends and junctions, in which the majority of road crashes happen.
Other indicators that have shifted dramatically are cycle tracks, LTNs and school schemes. Waltham Forest has now covered 12.4% of overall road length in the borough with cycle tracks (the City of London is over 20%), while Kensington & Chelsea have done just 0.2%, having foolishly removed its successful and popular Kensington High Street scheme after having it in for only a few weeks.
On Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, Hackney leads with 55% of the area of the borough that could be an LTN (according to TfL’s Strategic Neighbourhood Analysis) covered with schemes, followed closely by Waltham Forest at 47%. At the other end, Croydon, Barking & Dagenham and Bexley all feature less than 5% coverage.
Looking at school measures – it’s clear that these measures, like 20mph, are in reach of every borough. Barnet and Bromley– so weak in just about every other measure – manage around 40% of possible TfL’s school STARS allocation. Barking & Dagenham, Kingston and Kingston manage around 10%. Similarly, and surprisingly, Merton manages a creditable 41% of borough schools with a School Streets scheme, just ahead of Islington and Hackney. Bexley, Sutton and Hillingdon are at the other end, with basically no schemes. Although that is partly bad timing on Sutton’s part – at the last count it had 24% of schools with a scheme – but recently pulled them all out pending consultation.
Road risk to pedestrians 2021
Road risk to people cycling 2021
Outcome indicators – such as how many journeys are being made using various types of transport – are generally the result of long term planning and inaction, and of the structural profile of inner and outer London boroughs. For instance, on mode share and regular active travel, central London boroughs such as Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea do well, despite ongoing lack of action on their parts – perhaps in part because cyclists have no choice but to cycle in these boroughs to complete their journeys. But even here, boroughs such as Camden, Hackney and Southwark, are starting to significantly outperform these central boroughs.
On road risk to those walking and cycling, the scorecard, for the first time, separates risk by mode – which has revealed something very surprising. Three boroughs are significantly more risky for those walking than all others. Redbridge, and Barking & Dagenham are perhaps unsurprising, but Hackney? It turns out Hackney is very safe for cycling, however, unlike Barking & Dagenham – where for every ‘stage’ you ride, you’re over six times more likely to be seriously injured than in Hackney. Worst for risk in inner London is Kensington & Chelsea for cycling, But Bromley, Croydon and Hillingdon are all far too risky. A final anomaly here is Havering is the least risky place per stage to cycle in London – probably because hardly anyone cycles there at all. Again – the scorecard numbers are not perfect. We’re doing the best we can with the data that’s available to us, and qualitative analysis (aka, ‘real life experience’) is important here too.
On car ownership levels, what is interesting is how few cars are owned and how many car-free homes there are in boroughs such as Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea, yet how much the voices of drivers are then over-represented by these councils in their actions. As we set out in our analysis of the London Mayoral Election results, the majority of Londoners strongly support action that puts walking, cycling and public transport firmly ahead in the ‘pecking order’ of private motoring.
Our social media team livetweeted the Scorecard launch webinar and the full video recording (fully subtitled) is above. The webinar featured perspectives from across London, and across London’s political party spectrum. We’ve summarised some of those voices and their points:
Councillor Shama Tatler (Brent, Labour) talking about the north circular dividing the borough, how harassment and threats from those opposed to schemes has given way to positivity as schemes have been “bedding in”, and the vital need to coordinate bus priority measures with cycle schemes.
Cllr Jim Glen (Westminster, Conservative) said the climate emergency was the foremost priority of his generation and that LTNs need a “marketing” rethink.
Cllr and London Assembly member Caroline Russell (Islington, Green) sharing that she herself had to be convinced of the benefit of schemes restricting cars years ago, with the rollout of parking permits in her area and talked about the need for greater focus on inclusive street design, as well as the rise in size of cars.
Mayor Philip Glanville (Hackney, Labour) points out that boroughs control 95% of London’s roads, so their support for this agenda vital, but that current TfL funding situation is causing a lot of long-term planning issues.
Finally London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon (Liberal Democrat), talked about cycle parking, shared mobility services and a focus on road danger beyond infrastructure changes are vital.
See the full webinar here (fully subtitled).
Read the full London Boroughs Healthy Streets Scorecard results and report here.
We want to see bold steps taken to drive improvement in scorecard performance across London by 2022. But we should take a second to think about the scorecard itself.
It would be really fantastic to have a metric that shows how accessible cycle infrastructure is. Regrettably, as shown in HSS Coalition member Wheels For Wellbeing’s research into barriers to cycling and #BashTheBarriers campaign, much of London’s cycle network is beset by discriminatory barriers and chicanes that make use of cycles like handcycles and tandems difficult if not impossible. Wheels For Wellbeing are a new coalition member and it’s important that their perspective and voice has an impact on the shape of the scorecard for next year.
We’re ramping up action ahead of 2022’s Local Elections. The scorecard webinar covered how many of London’s boroughs have declared climate emergencies, and are in the process of publishing climate emergency action plans. We’re working on developing a campaigning network to really scrutinise these action plans from an ‘enable mass cycling’ perspective, and the scorecard for next year will be a useful tool in how we do that. Find out more about Katy and Suami who joined us in the LCC team with this project in mind.
Please share the scorecard with your friends and family – especially if they’re neighbours in your borough. The scorecard will never be perfect but it is a convenient and accessible resource to get an idea of how your borough’s leadership are succeeding (or failing) in making your streets a safe and welcoming place to cycle. Here’s hoping for big improvements across our city by this time next year.