Ready, steady, GRIDLOCK! SARAH RAINEY tests public transport

Ready, steady, GRIDLOCK! Cycle lanes, roadworks – no wonder it feels it’d be quicker to walk in today’s choked cities…. so what happened when SARAH RAINEY put it to the test?

  • Motorcylist, cyclist, pedestrian, driver and bus passenger did an experiment
  • Travelled from Victoria Coach Station to Jermyn Street as quickly as possible
  • Cycling was the quickest form of transport and the route took seven minutes
  • Riding a bus was slowest way of getting through London and took 18 minutes 

Presenter and avid cyclist Jeremy Vine rides through the capital

Gridlocked traffic, irate drivers and a dawn chorus of honking horns… travelling in London is a nightmare.

The capital is the world’s most congested city, with drivers spending 101 hours in traffic jams every year and vehicles crawling along at an average speed of 8mph — slower than a horse-drawn carriage in the 18th century.

As presenter and avid cyclist Jeremy Vine commented recently on Twitter: ‘On a cycle, a mile takes five minutes in London. On a motorbike, a mile takes 11 minutes. On foot, a mile takes 18 minutes. In a car, a mile takes 14 years.’

Drivers blame a proliferation of roadworks — construction here has increased by 362 per cent since 2012 — as well as a rise in the number of vans (online shopping and supermarket deliveries) and widespread Uber use.

But cycle lanes, built across the capital as part of a £913 million ‘cycle superhighway’ scheme, remain motorists’ biggest bugbear, with many complaining about ‘Lycra louts’ clogging up a city that wasn’t designed for bikes.

It’s an argument repeated nationwide, with Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham also boasting millions of pounds’ worth of cycle lanes. 

With less than a third of rush-hour journeys carried out on two wheels, has a small but vocal group hijacked major infrastructure?

  • Uber admits TfL was right not to renew its London licence…

    Drivers could be charged for every kilometre they’re on the…

Share this article

For those who rely on public transport to get around — the elderly, disabled and those who can’t afford a car — it’s wreaking havoc on their daily commute.

Cyclists, in turn, say motorists are polluting the air and contribute to far greater numbers of accidents and road deaths.

Put simply, there is less space on the roads than there once was —and tensions are running high.

So just how long does it take to get from one London location to another? Is Jeremy Vine right that a car really would come last?

We set five commuters the challenge: to travel one mile, as the crow flies, across the city during morning rush hour — and see who reached the finish line first.

The race route was from Victoria Coach Station, currently surrounded by an impenetrable maze of roadworks that causes traffic to snarl up, to Jermyn Street just off Piccadilly, where a £14 million project to reduce congestion — and increase cycle lanes — appears to have made tailbacks worse.

Our racers? A cyclist, a motorcyclist, a driver, a bus passenger and a pedestrian (me).

Each participant was given a map and told to take the route they thought would get them from start to finish in the shortest time.

We synchronised our watches, powered up our navigation devices — and set off at 8am, the busiest hour on the capital’s roads.

On your marks, get set… let the Great London Race begin!


With the huge rise in takeaway delivery bikes and courier services, it’s no surprise our roads are overrun by motorbikes.

Numbers are increasing at a faster rate than cars, with 12.3 million registered across the country and 4.8 million whizzing around London over the past decade.

Not only can they circumvent jams by zipping through gaps in traffic and travel on the narrowest of streets, but since 2009 motorbikes have been permitted in bus lanes on London’s major roads.

There’s even an environmental benefit: riders say pollution would be reduced by 40 per cent if just 10 per cent of drivers switched to two (very speedy) wheels.

The downside? The danger. Deaths of motorcyclists on London’s roads are rising, with 33 killed in 2016 alone.

With the huge rise in takeaway delivery bikes and courier services, it’s no surprise our roads are overrun by motorbikes

The challenger: Max Cisotti, 48, a photographer from South-West London, who navigates the capital on two wheels.

I’ve always biked to work — I do it for convenience and speed. My job can take me anywhere, so I need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

I can definitely get around faster on a motorbike than in a car, even though the speed limit is the same at 30mph.

There are lots of cut-throughs that cars would get stuck in — and if I find myself in gridlock, I can normally weave my way out or turn down a side street.

Bus lanes are confusing for motorcyclists. There are some you can use and others you can’t — the rules don’t seem clear.

Generally speaking, I hate buses. They’re normally half-empty, they stop too often and they block the roads.

I’m not a fan of cyclists, either. They pull up in front of you at traffic lights and then can’t get away fast enough. I find it very frustrating and unsafe.

I know this route well and, as I expected, the worst stretch was outside Victoria Station, where there are lots of traffic lights heading north.

I tried to skip the queues by going through Belgravia and around Hyde Park Corner, but then I hit traffic on Piccadilly, which was nose-to-tail.

I turned off the main road and dodged slow-moving cars in side streets to reach the finish line.

I was always going to win the race. Cars have no hope — the only way to get around London is by motorbike.


With roaring HGVs, treacherous roundabouts and red-faced motorists to contend with, cycling in Central London is not for the faint of heart.

But that doesn’t deter the vast number of bike-owners who make their commute on two wheels. Cycle journeys in the capital have doubled in a decade, with 730,000 trips — totalling half a million kilometres — made every day.

In Zone 1, during morning rush hour, 32 per cent of vehicles on the road are bikes. Eight cycle superhighways — 1.5-metre chunks of road preserved exclusively for cyclists — are in operation, with the first dating back to 2010.

Lycra-lovers insist it’s the fastest way to get around, but critics say cyclists are dominating our streets and disregarding traffic laws.

With roaring HGVs, treacherous roundabouts and red-faced motorists to contend with, cycling in Central London is not for the faint of heart

The challenger: Dan Ashley, 41, who works as head of communications at a trade union and lives in South-East London. He’s been commuting by bike for 20 years.

My commute takes an hour — from my home in Bromley in South London to Camden in the north of the city — so I spend two hours every day in the saddle.

I do it to keep fit and because I know how stressful it is to get around any other way.

I’ve spent too many unpleasant journeys under someone’s armpit on the Tube. You always get a seat on a bike!

I’ve seen London’s cycling scene change dramatically: there are so many more of us around now.

However, cyclists who ride on the pavement or jump red lights give us a bad reputation.

The biggest dangers are drivers who don’t indicate — you risk being hurled from your bike if they cut you up — and pedestrians who walk into the road with their eyes glued to their phones.

It’s brilliant to see so many cycle lanes springing up, but they need to be more clearly demarcated, otherwise cars veer into them. I’d like to see even more — car drivers don’t own the road, after all!

My journey to Piccadilly was stop-start. I’d plotted my route and wrote it on a piece of paper, which I kept in my pocket.

I got caught at several sets of traffic lights and ended up beside the car challenger, so I knew I was making slow progress.

Rather than face gridlock on The Mall, I took the cycle lane through Green Park. Though it was swarming, this bought me crucial time and I crossed the finish eight seconds after the motorbike.

If I’d pedalled a tiny bit faster, I could’ve won.


Sarah Rainey marches past Buckingham Palace

At this time of year, there’s nothing more pleasant than a gentle stroll to the office in the sunshine.

As we become more health-conscious, and sales of fitness trackers soar 20 per cent year on year, more people than ever are commuting on foot.

Brits walk an average of 28 minutes a day, with millions completing the equivalent of a marathon every fortnight to and from work.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan wants 80 per cent of journeys to be made on public transport, bike or foot by 2041, and Transport for London recently issued a ‘walking Tube map’. It’s good exercise, there are no traffic jams or timetables — and you can fill your lungs with fresh (-ish) London air.

The challenger: Me. My home is in South-East London and my daily commute takes an hour by train, Tube and on foot.

Swapping my heels for comfy trainers, I strode confidently out of Victoria Station.

I don’t walk to work as I live 9.1 miles away, which would take three hours — but I have started getting off the Tube a stop early and walking. It’s an easy way of keeping fit, especially when you have a sedentary job, and there’s no gridlock on the pavements.

I put the finish line in Citymapper — a smartphone app which uses satellite technology to plot the fastest route — and followed the flashing blue dot.

Both Dan (on the bike) and Vittorio (in the car) passed me at a roundabout near the start, but I gave them a smug wave as they got stuck in traffic seconds later.

I navigated the roadworks around Victoria, took a right onto Petty France and then strolled through St James’s Park, with so much time to spare that I stopped to take a photograph by the lake.

On The Mall, I was nearly run over by a gaggle of cyclists who whizzed through a red light without a backward glance.

I lost five minutes recovering from the shock and broke into a jog to the finish line (thank God for those trainers). I was delighted to make the podium, proving the power of two legs.


Two-and-a-half million Londoners own cars — but car ownership is declining.

With so many alternative ways of getting around, driving is reserved for those who don’t have a choice — such as the elderly or disabled, or those who do it for a living.

Not only are there strict speed limits (most roads are 20mph or 30mph), speed cameras and a hefty £11.50 congestion charge between 7am and 6pm, but there’s also the headache of parking. Motorists in the city spend 67 hours a year searching for a spot. Added to the 101 hours spent in traffic, that’s an awful lot of wasted time.

With so many alternative ways of getting around, driving is reserved for those who don’t have a choice

The challenger: Vittorio Frediani, 43, a security driver from South-West London.

I’m behind the wheel all day, every day. I see the best and worst of the city’s roads — and there are definitely more bad than good.

London is becoming impossible for motorists. Roads that used to flow freely have been narrowed so much by cycle lanes that there’s always solid traffic.

London might be cyclist-friendly, but it’s becoming car-unfriendly.

I started neck-and-neck with Dan’s bike and we followed the same route past Buckingham Palace. Then he veered off onto his (rather empty) cycle lane.

I felt like my car was surrounded by a swarm of cyclists, cutting me up at every corner. You can’t take your eyes off the road for a second, even to check the sat nav.

Unlike them, I couldn’t cut corners, and instead ended up in gridlock on The Mall.

Then I spent another ten minutes in search of a parking space before sprinting to the finish line. What a nightmare!


London’s public transport system is its beating heart, so heavily do its residents rely on buses, Tubes and trains. 

But travelling this way doesn’t come cheap — with a Tube journey costing £2.90 with an Oyster or contactless card, or £4.90 with cash.

For large families, those on a lower income or children travelling alone — who only get free Tube travel until the age 11 — buses are the only way to get around, with a single fare costing just £1.50. However, cyclists can use bus lanes, too, slowing them down.

There are 8,000 buses on 700 different routes in London, and commuters take 1.8 billion journeys every year.

Every day, the network carries 6.5 million people. Despite their many stops and roundabout routes, buses have designated lanes on most main roads, spanning 240 kilometres city-wide.

For large families, those on a lower income or children travelling alone — who only get free Tube travel until the age 11 — buses are the only way to get around

The challenger: Vicky Allen, 24, an office manager from South-East London. She’s lived in the capital all her life but only started commuting, to a new job in the City, last month.

I used to work near to where I live, so I’m new to this route — and that means I don’t have the patience of someone who’s done this for years.

There’s nothing worse than having to stand the whole way while a bus driver jerks round corners and stops abruptly — it makes me feel ill.

The No. 38 bus goes from Victoria to Piccadilly, so my route was straightforward. Buses come every 20 minutes and I got lucky, with one pulling up minutes after I had arrived at the stop.

I even got a seat — a miracle in rush hour! — but it soon filled up with grumpy-looking commuters, many of whom were forced to stand.

The journey was smooth until we reached Hyde Park Corner, when we started crawling at a snail’s pace. This continued the whole way along Piccadilly — I thought we’d never get there!

I’m not surprised I came last. But it does seem unfair that bus routes are clogged with cyclists — they should stick to their own lanes.   


Source: Read Full Article