Is Transport for London really on track with its cycling target?

The graph below shows how Transport for London believes its Target for Growth in Cycling is on track. My analysis of their graph suggests that this is not so.

The graph is presented by TfL as part of their current Junctions Review. The context is the targets – set by both Mayors of London – for a growth in the number of daily cycling trips by 400% from 2001 to 2026. Sometimes this is presented as a 400% rise in the share of journeys (modal share), but mainly it is given as a 400% increase in the number of cycling trips. It is worthwhile
remembering that 400% means an increase by a factor of 5.

It is also worth remembering that cyclists tend to make fewer trips per day than motorists: so 100 cycle trips would tend to be made by something like 40 cyclists, as they generally tend to just cycle there and back. However, it would be more like 30 motorists making the 100 daily driving trips, as they tend to make more trips per day.

Here is the graph:


(Click on graph to get a clearer picture)

The first (minor) point is that five times 320,000 cycle journeys  is 1.6 million, rather than the 1.5 million presented in the top right hand box as the 2026 target.

The main issue is the two lines on the graph as supplied by TfL: these are ACTUAL in light blue font and TARGET in red font.   I have no quarrel with the blue line, although TfL could have done a lot more to get good figures on the numbers and types of cycling trips. My problem is with the red line.

Or, to be more precise, the red curve. I have added a straight BLACK line on to the graph, which runs straight from the 2001 baseline point to the target point.

The characteristic of the red curve as it has been drawn by TfL is that it allows us to have lower cycle trips recorded at the present time – and to say that we are on track – than if we had the straight black line.

To be specific: If we used my straight black line, the “on track” number for 2010 – the last year for which we have figures – would be something like 750,00, not the lower 540,000 presented in the box as “540k cycle journeys per day – on track to meet 400% target”. This current year we would be on some 850,000 trips rather than the 600,000 on the red curve.

Of course, it is quite legitimate to give a curve such as the red one as the indicator of likely growth, rather than a straight line. But this projection has to be based on evidence. In this case it  could mean that the rate of growth increases from about 2017 – 2019. It should also one made clear that this assumption is being made.

This has not been done. A range of factors could start coming into play in the next few years which mean that the rate of growth increases (as opposed to just growth). But they have not been specified.

Of course, what really matters is getting the increase. As the legend states: one million extra cycle journeys are going to be needed every day for the target to be met. That means about 32,000 extra daily cycle journeys on average in each Borough. To give an indication of what this means, the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme has had a maximum of 40,000 trips in one day. If extended as hoped 40,000 per day may well be typical. However, this flagship scheme would then only be making up just 4% of the overall target.

Is it reasonable to assume that other measures to be put forward by TfL and the Boroughs – being financed primarily by TfL  – are seriously expected to make up the rest?