Thursday 13 January 2011

What is Camden’s modal share for cycling?

The London Borough of Camden is a prize-winning borough:

Transport borough of the year, Camden, has shown excellent increases in cycling with a 134% rise since 2001 and is already 2% ahead of its 2012 target to achieve a 10% cycling modal share.

Indeed, according to Camden Council

the estimated modal share for cycle use is 11.19%.

Very, very impressive.

And as far as I can tell the term ‘modal share’ is not being used just to refer to commuter cycling (which always comes out top in modal share statistics, with general cycling always lower).

But, strangely, Transport for London, in its very latest statistics, says that the modal share figure for Camden defined as

Londoners’ trips by borough of origin, trips per day and shares by main mode, average day (seven-day week) 2007/08 to 2009/10.


Camden: cycle 3%

(see Table B1 p. 277 here)

Why the blatant contradiction?

Are TfL’s ways of measuring cycling inadequate and are Camden Council’s more sophisticated? There are always problems with cycling statistics, which are rooted in methodology and questions of definition. As I found out when I used the Freedom of Information Act, TfL’s sweeping generalisations about ‘cycling in London’ are based on cycle counts taken on just 29 ‘A’ roads. And the London Borough of Waltham Forest has around 1,300 streets, on the vast majority of which no cycle counts are ever taken.

As far as Camden is concerned I suspect it’s partly a question of definition. My impression is that Camden’s figures offer a snapshot of traffic passing through the borough. Anyone from Waltham Forest who commutes to the West End by bicycle has to pass through Camden, and so gets registered on their screenline counts. But if TfL’s figures are accurate (and the methodology is not explained) then very few people who actually live in Camden choose to cycle.

Modal share is a much more telling statistic than percentage increases in cycling, but such a huge difference between Camden Council’s modal share figure and TfL’s is perplexing.