London Bike Sharing Soared to Record in 2021 as Workers Returned
Transport for London reported the busiest ever year for its bicycle-rental program, indicating that more residents of the U.K. capital are opting for two-wheelers to get around.
The initiative racked up 10.9 million bike hires in 2021, surpassing the previous record set three years earlier, TfL said in a statement on Wednesday. More than 1 million individual customers used the service and 178,000 new members joined.
Like many major global cities, London is struggling to balance how to encourage eco-friendly cycle traffic while maintaining access for drivers. A report from analytics firm Inrix Inc. last year suggested that traffic got worse in 2021 as more road space was given over to biking lanes, though the conclusions were disputed by cycle charities.
TfL saw its highest number of monthly cycle hires since March 2020 in September as workers returned from summer holidays, suggesting a return to offices was beginning to take hold before the emergence of the omicron coronavirus variant. The group is still discussing a long-term funding plan with the government to offset a drop in tube and bus usage during the pandemic, though these services may yet recover.
Cycling levels grew overall during the pandemic, TfL said, with 27% of Londoners using bikes in 2021 versus 21% the previous year. Participation also rose among ethnic minority communities.
Since May 2020, more than 100 kilometers of new or upgraded cycle lanes have been built or are being constructed, TfL said, along with tens of thousands of square meters of extra pavement space.
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