I don’t like commuting. Readers of this blog may have already noticed this. So strong was my desire to reduce everyone’s commute, I even founded a commute-time-reducing property search engine.
Cyclists can now use Find Properly to minimise their commute (previously only public transport users could).
However when we shared the good news with cyclists on Facebook, we were surprised by the reaction – cyclists seem to love commuting!
So is cycling the answer to spending less time underground or waiting for a bus? For a short trip down the road, cycling may be quicker, but travelling across London has got to be faster by tube or bus… right?
It was time to whip out Excel and do some analysis (I have never sounded so nerdy).
How long does a journey need to be before it is quicker to take public transport than cycle?
For our commute time minimisation algorithm, we gathered travel time data for over 750,000 journeys. For each journey we have the time it would take by public transport and by cycling.
Therefore we know which method is faster for each journey. And since we know where the journey started and ended, we know the length of the journey (as the crow flies).
Using this information I was able to generate the chart below:
I was really surprised by this. Nearly all journeys less than 5km are faster by cycling. Only until journeys are longer than ~13km is it quicker in most cases to take public transport!
For context: the average bus journey is 5.7km when travelling through multiple zones, and 1.9km for journeys in zone 1 only. So nearly everyone using the bus could save time by cycling instead (pensioners and pram-pushers aside)!
Caveat – as pointed out by podaris, these results should be interpreted with care. Short journeys by public transport in zone 1 are likely to be more efficient, due to the density of the transport network – i.e there is probably a bus route or tube line going in the direction you want. For suburban areas, public transport is likely to be less direct, and therefore slower than cycling.
So if cycling is faster than public transport in many cases, just how slow is public transport?
To generate the chart below I divided the journey distance (as the crow flies) by the time the journey takes by public transport, and by cycling. If the speeds look very low to you this is because (a) London roads don’t follow a straight line, so the travelled distance will be longer than the crow flies, and (b) that’s the point.
I remember being shocked when hearing that the average traffic speed in central London was only 9mph (14km/h).
But public transport is even worse – for short journeys, public transport is slower than walking!
This is because of all the time you waste with public transport: walking to and from the nearest stop and waiting for the bus or descending to the
bowels of the earth tube platform all add significant time. These wasted times are largely avoided by cycling.
Let’s throw away our public transport system and only use bikes
OK, not really.
London has, in my opinion, one of the best transport systems in the world. Is there anything more beautiful than seven 38 buses arriving at the stop together?
And yet, despite this, for many journeys I could out-jog you on public transport – that’s how slow it is!
And finally, we have a present for you…
We’ve created a cool visualisation showing whether it is quicker to cycle or take public transport from a specific point.
Check it out and let us know what you think!