Call for more cycle tracks to combat London bus delays

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Separated cycle tracks can help beat bus delays in London, new research has claimed.

The research, carried out by Dr Rachel Aldred of Westminster University, Phil Jones of Phil Jones Associates and Luke Best of Multimodal, found that buses traveling northbound across London Bridge – with a shared bus lane – during the morning rush hour experienced an increase of 30 seconds per mile when compared to times with no cyclists present. This represents an 18% increase in journey times, with the delays on the bridge most often caused by buses having to wait behind cyclists before pulling into a stop.

The section of London Bridge the study focused on has one three-metre-wide shared bus lane and two general traffic lanes, and is used by more than 2,000 vehicles in morning peak hour flow. Over half of these are cycles.

Cycling now carries as many people as the Dockland Light Rail and taxis combined, and the numbers continue to rocket. The researchers are calling for more dedicated cycle lanes to help buses run to time. According to the researchers, new tracks would also bring additional benefits to both cyclists and bus drivers who, often under time pressures, are stressed at having to mix with large numbers of cyclists.

Speaking of the research, Rachel said: “Our model shows cyclists in shared bus lanes can already cause significant delays to buses. These delays are likely to become even longer if London’s cycling demographic becomes more diverse, because cyclist speeds will decline. So providing separate cycle tracks can benefit both cyclists and bus passengers. Rather than setting cyclists against buses, we can prioritise both as sustainable modes of transport, compared to private cars which are an inefficient use of city space.”

Phil added: “London’s Cycle Superhighways have received much criticism for their adverse effect on traffic flow and congestion. Just a few weeks ago Tory peer Lord Blencathra said the lanes had caused ‘unprecedented congestion’. Creating separate space for cycling away from buses on key routes would bring significant bus journey benefits in the capital.”

The research was backed by British Cycling’s policy advisor and former Olympic gold-medallist, Chris Boardman, who said: “This research shows that providing protected space for cycling, as well as improving safety, actually makes it more efficient for public transport. Separating bus and cycle infrastructure is common sense but now we have the evidence to show it makes things better for all road users.”

The research has been published in a paper called Cyclists in Shared Bus Lanes: could there be unrecognised impacts on bus journey times?