Press Release

Londoners support measures to give pedestrians and cyclists more space

A new survey reveals most Londoners support measures to give pedestrians and cyclists more space, as walking and cycling are set to hit new highs.

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The majority of Londoners support moves by the Mayor, Transport for London and local councils to give more space to pedestrians and cyclists, a new poll on behalf of Centre for London and London Environment Directors’ Network (LEDNet) has found.

The polling was commissioned by Centre for London to explore Londoners’ changing attitudes to travel during the crisis, and the potential impacts on the city’s transport network once lockdown is over.

The survey found that:

Most London adults support new transport policies, including measures to support social distancing:

  • 69 per cent of Londoners support the temporary widening of pavements to aid social distancing.
  • 64 per cent of Londoners support the temporary provision of new cycle lanes, or wider existing cycle lanes, to aid social distancing.
  • 59 per cent of Londoners support the temporary closure of roads and parking to accommodate walking, cycling and space for queues.

The majority also support permanent pavement widening, and the permanent provision of new cycle lanes or wider cycle lanes, although support is lower than for temporary measures:

Support for…
Doing this temporarily to aid social distancing Doing this permanently
Widening of pavements 69 per cent 56 per cent
Provision of new cycle lanes, or wider existing cycle lanes 64 per cent 57 per cent

Support for these measures is consistently higher among those who live in inner London compared to those living in outer London (by between two and seven percentage points).

Londoners are finding it difficult to keep socially distant from other people and almost three quarters support making it compulsory to wear face masks on public transport:

  • 73 per cent of Londoners support the compulsory use of facemasks on public transport. 21 per cent oppose the measure and a further six per cent did not know.
  • Half of those who have travelled by tube or rail (52 per cent) and bus (51 per cent) during lockdown are finding it difficult to keep socially distant from other people.
  • Many Londoners are also finding it hard to maintain physical distance when out and about. Half of London adults (48 per cent) say they are walking or running more since the start of the lockdown. However, almost a quarter find it difficult to social distance from others when walking/running (24 per cent per cent of those who have done this in lockdown) or cycling (23 per cent).

High streets are the most difficult place for people to keep socially distant from other people (42 per cent) whereas a quarter find it difficult in parks and residential streets (26 per cent for both). This suggests that measures to temporarily widen pavements should focus on high streets, to increase space, speed up the flow of people and support local businesses.

The survey also asks Londoners how their travel behaviour has changed and, in particular, how they anticipate these habits would change under three scenarios: if lockdown were completely over in three months, six months or one year.

Seven in 10 London adults say they are using the tube or rail (71 per cent) or the bus (68 per cent) less since the start of lockdown. Even in the most optimistic three-month scenario, 49 per cent of respondents who provided an answer say they expect to use the tube less than before the crisis and 48 per cent for taxis and ride-hailing. This drops to 44 per cent for buses.

About a third of Londoners who provide an answer say they will cycle more after lockdown across all scenarios, compared to their pre-crisis habits. This rises to almost half (46 per cent) for walking, running and cycling altogether.

At the same time, between a quarter and a third of Londoners who provide an answer also expect to use their cars more in the future across the three scenarios tested. However, 69 per cent of respondents also support the temporary suspension of parking charges.

This presents a difficult challenge for both the Mayor and London’s boroughs, who have been trying to encourage a shift from car use where it is not absolutely necessary. London is already the most congested city in Europe and cars take up valuable road space needed to accommodate increased cycling and walking, and also produce air pollution and carbon emissions.

Rob Whitehead, Director of Strategic Projects, Centre for London said:

“This crisis is upending much of what we knew and assumed about Londoners and transport.  Londoners back many of the changes that the Mayor, Transport for London and councils are pursuing to adapt.

“The concern is that we may be witnessing an epochal shift against public transport with ominous longer term implications.

“Whilst lockdown has encouraged many to try walking and cycling to get to work and exercise, it looks equally as likely to nudge Londoners to return to their cars.

“Without bold thinking and innovation London could be heading for a new era of gridlock on our roads.“

Dan Jones, Chair of the London Environment Director’s Network (LEDNet) said:

“There have been huge positives for the fight against climate change born out of lockdown thanks to people making greener travel choices. The support shown by Londoners for initiatives to increase walking and cycling will be extremely beneficial to London’s environmental future. We want to ensure these decisions become habits as we enter the next stage of the pandemic and London’s recovery.

“As we begin to emerge from lockdown, there is concern that many people will choose to drive instead of using public transport, adding to London’s high congestion and air pollution. We must take this opportunity to present green alternatives to reduce the number of cars on the road and carbon emissions.

“It is imperative we listen to Londoners and that we do not ignore this significant moment in time and grasp this unique opportunity to tackle the climate emergency.”

Notes to Editors

  • Centre for London is the capital’s dedicated think tank. Politically independent and a registered charity, the Centre publishes research, holds events, convenes and influences to create a better city.
  • This project was funded and sponsored by LEDNet and supported by the London Technical Advisors Group (LoTAG).
  • London Environmental Directors’ Network (LEDNet) is the membership association for London boroughs’ Environment Directors. They work together to deliver more effective and efficient environmental services.
  • Data: Savanta ComRes interviewed 1,068 London residents online between 15th and 19th of May 2020. Data is representative of all London residents by age, gender and region.