Mobility intelligence firm Inrix has released its Global Traffic Scorecard, highlighting that as lockdowns ease congestion in UK city centres has returned to 2019 levels – with London becoming the world’s most congested city.
To quantify the impact of eased restrictions, the 2021 Inrix Global Traffic Scorecard identifies and ranks congestion and mobility trends across more than 1,000 cities, across 50 countries – including the UK.
On average, British drivers lost 73 hours this year in traffic, up from 37 hours in 2020 but down from 115 in 2019 pre-Covid. Nationally, Brits spent nearly 1 billion hours (980 million) sat in traffic, costing £595 per driver and the country £8bn.
Drivers in London, Cambridge, and Bristol lost the most time to traffic congestion, 148, 75 and 66 hours respectively. This was despite seeing large reductions compared with 2019, down 53%, 42% and 64% respectively. Exeter saw the largest increase in congestion with delays increasing by 27% from 2019.
Additionally, the scorecard also found London to be the most congested city globally, topping the list of cities most impacted by traffic congestion, increasing from 16th in 2019. London is followed by Paris, Brussels, Moscow and New York City.
While Inrix’s report states the UK’s strong economic recovery from the pandemic as the main reason for this surge in traffic, its operations director Peter Lees also suggested that the expansion of cycle infrastructure had a “negative impact of congestion.”
He said: “Use of roads is all about supply and demand. If the demand goes up but the road space is being shared with other forms of transport, there’s less tarmac effectively for the cars to be on, which then has an impact on the speeds on the road and therefore congestion.”
Cycling UK has disputed this claim, and explained that the congestion is caused by a “perfect storm” of a number of factors, including the e-commerce boom leading to more last-mile deliveries and the slow return to public transport.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, added: “It’s incredibly simplistic for Inrix to suggest that the use of road is all about supply and demand, without considering how efficiently that road space is used.
“On Blackfriars Bridge, cycle lanes take up 20% of the road space but move 70% of the people across it at peak times, with cycle lanes across London moving more people more efficiently in less space.
“Inrix are focussed on the tarmac available for cars, when the question should be how we use and allocate that space better, changing travel behaviours and reducing congestion in the process.
“Car dependency locks in congestion. By building more cycle lanes, London is rebalancing their roads, offering a safe, healthy and space efficient alternative.”
The UK charity stressed that earlier this year London’s walking and cycling commissioner, Will Norman, had disclosed that public transport capacity was running at a fifth of pre-crisis levels, meaning post-lockdown “up to eight million journeys a day will need to be made by other means. If people switch only a fraction of these journeys to cars, London will grind to a halt.”