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Does London traffic slow-down account for capital's bike boom?

Much faster by bike as inner London slows to under 14mph + the places around the country it would also be quicker to ride

While you can argue about whether there's a general UK bike boom happening, there's no doubt London is having one. There are now twice as many journeys by bike in the capital as a decade ago. But the latest figures suggest the reason is simple: London traffic is now so slow a bike is far and away the fastest way to travel.

The Department for Transport's most recent figures for average traffic speeds on local A roads show that London has the ten slowest local authority areas in England during the morning peak — and it's getting slower.

The prizes for England's slowest traffic go to Camden and the City of London, where the average speed is just 9.2mph. Camden held the title for the 12 months to September 2013 too, but a six percent slowdown in the City, versus just two percent in Camden, brought them level.

The pattern is repeated all over London. Traffic is slower in inner London as a whole, with a fall in average speed of 6.1 percent between 2013 and 2014 to just 12.3mph. That's the lowest since 2006-7.

And speeds have also dropped by 7.4 percent on all the roads managed by Transport for London, despite Mayor Boris Johnson's policy of smoothing traffic flow. The 13.4mph average on those roads is also the lowest since 2006-7.

That makes a bike the fastest way to get around London's streets.

And it's not just London. Traffic speed blackspots elsewhere in the county include Bristol, with an average of 14.5mph,  Reading at just 13.6mph and Manchester at 15.4mph. That might be a bit more than a leisurely pootle to the office but it still makes cycling an attractive proposition when you consider the savings in fuel and parking charges.

The Department's average speeds are for traffic in both directions. In some London boroughs they may well reflect the average speed of the commuter run, but in larger areas  where drivers are mostly heading into town during the peak, the average likely masks a lower speed for the poor souls sitting in traffic.

Here are the figures for the 10 slowest areas inside and outside the capital.

England's slowest traffic
Local Authority Average speed
Change since 2012/3
10 slowest London boroughs    
Camden 9.2 -2.0
City of London 9.2 -5.8
Islington 9.9 -3.6
Lewisham 10.4 -3.1
Lambeth 10.5 -7.3
Southwark 10.5 -4.4
Westminster 11.2 -0.9
Haringey 11.5 -9.9
Wandsworth 11.7 -4.7
Kensington and Chelsea 11.9 0.0
10 slowest outside London    
Reading 13.6 -4.8
Bristol, City of 14.5 -3.2
Slough 15.3 -3.6
Manchester 15.4 -1.2
Nottingham 15.6 -4.1
Southampton 15.9 -7.5
Leicester 16.1 -4.2
Tameside 16.3 1.8
Brighton and Hove 16.4 -2.9
Kingston upon Hull, City of 16.8 1.4


John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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