Solving Cities

Find out what's dramatically increasing biking in London

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New maps show how congestion pricing has helped decrease car use and increase biking in the city.

If you've ever paid a toll you already have a good idea what congestion pricing is. But rather than collect money for using a highway, this tool is used by cities to encourage transportation uses other than the car, in busy city centers at busy times. The money collected in the congestion zone goes back into public transportation systems and congestion is, theoretically, reduced. (See more on how congestion pricing works here.)

It's been nearly 10 years since London implemented a congestion fare and so far it seems to be working.

In new maps from ITO World that illustrate car use, along with bike and bus use, from 2001-2010 in Great Britain, we can also see how the congestion charge has impacted downtown London (congestion pricing started in 2003).

In the first map we can zoom into central London and see how much car use has changed over that time:

There's definitely a big blob of blue, indicating a 30 percent decrease in driving, throughout London's city center. So are people just driving the long way around the congestion charge zone to avoid paying? It's difficult to say for sure, but there is a pretty clear ring of red on the outskirts of the city. Still, congestion pricing isn't going to end driving in and around the city, just reduce it in busy places. It's doing that.

So how did biking and bus use change since, roughly, the congestion pricing began? The first map, below, shows the change in bike use and the second map shows the change in bus use.

Again, in both cases, the increase in biking and busing has increased dramatically throughout central London in the past decade. While there are a few spots where this isn't the case, most of the city center is red. For biking red dots indicate a 100 percent increase in use and for buses they indicate a 30 percent increase.

That ITO World was able to map this data is thanks to the Department for Transport in the U.K. opening their data to the public. (You can view it here.) The department collects the data on both major and minor roads and makes the numbers available each year.

(h/t Streetsblog)

Photo: Flickr/maistora

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure