From Hackney Cyclists:
1st February: Cycling surges. Car ownership collapses.
Figures released from the 2011 Census this week reveal large increases in the number and proportion of London residents who use cycling as their main way to get to work. Across London as a whole, 4.3% now cycle to work, while the figure in inner London is 7%. Hackney has London’s highest proportion of people cycling to work, at 14.6% (or 15.5% if you exclude employed people who work from home).
Meanwhile car ownership is plummetting in inner London, and especially in Hackney, where the proportion of households which are car-free has risen to 64.6%, up from 56% in 2001, with just 170 motor vehicles per 1000 people, and about 4000 fewer cars owned overall, even though the population has increased by 44,000.
I’m not sure exactly what lessons can be learned from Hackney. The difficulty with changes in behaviour is that it can be difficult to figure out what the causes are, unless credibly large surveys of road users are undertaken. Without such surveys, what you have are correlations, rather than causes.
A tweeter suggested that the rise in cycling in London since 2000 was caused by the introduction of the Congestion Charge. It is probable that the Con Charge was a cause, but equally I could suggest that, since the fixie craze started in the early noughties, this was a cause of the rise of cycling. I’m not seriously suggesting that the increase in cycling in London is down to the availability of off the peg fixed wheel bicycles, and that Jan, owner of Brick Lane Bikes, and a former London bicycle courier, is a more important figure in the Hackneyisation of London than Ken Livingstone, but it is a fact that Hackney is the home turf of those pesky hipsters, whose preferred form of transport is the fixie.
I’d like to believe that the drop in car ownership and rise in cycling is caused by Hackney Council making it less economically attractive to own and operate a car, and thus more economically attractive to ride a bike, so Hackney residents have changed their behaviour over the last 20 years, but it could also be that cycling-minded people have been attracted to come and live in Hackney, and petrol-heads have moved elsewhere, to places like Barnet, where they feel more welcome.
Either way, this is good news for Hackney, which has often been a source of bad news, so Hackney Council should be proud that it is getting something right, as seems pretty clear from these numbers.