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Sadiq Khan's plan to get Londoners out of cars and onto bikes and buses is 'stuck in slow lane'

Sadiq Khan’s aim of getting Londoners out of their cars and walking, cycling or using public transport is struggling to get back on track after going into reverse during the pandemic.

A total of 61.5 per cent of all trips in the capital were walked, cycled or made on public transport in 2022/23 - up from 57 per cent after the first lockdown but a slight decline on the 62.4 per cent figure in the subsequent year.

In 2019, about 64 per cent of journeys were made on “green” forms of transport.

A progress report from Transport for London on the mayor’s transport strategy also revealed that car use had plateaued at 95 per cent of pre-pandemic levels but that congestion “remained high and at levels that are not compatible” with the mayor’s targets.

Mr Khan wants 80 per cent of journeys to be walked, cycled or made by public transport by 2041.

He is looking to reduce “dependency” on cars, primarily with “healthy streets” that prioritise pedestrians and cyclists and restrict through traffic.

The proportion of journeys walked or cycled has risen from 27 per cent in 2019 to 31 per cent last year.

But there has been a fall in bus journeys, and weekday Tube travel remains about 80 per cent of pre-covid levels, despite a post-pandemic record four million journeys on November 23.

The report said the impact of the pandemic on travel habits “appears to be abating”, with Londoners getting out more each day than in the past two years.

“The demand for cycling is now exceeding pre-pandemic levels,” it said.

The mayor’s transport strategy aims to reduce traffic levels by 10 to 15 per cent by 2041, with an interim target of reducing the amount of miles travelled by car by 27 per cent by 2030.

Road congestion was said to cost the London economy £5.1bn a year – excluding the impact on bus passengers.

The report said that a “potential new road user charging scheme could replace existing schemes, such as the congestion charge, Ulez and low emission zone, with a simple and fair scheme for customers”.

However Mr Khan has ruled out introducing a “pay-per-mile” charging scheme “as long as I am mayor”.

Seb Dance, the deputy mayor for transport, said he thought about the 80 per cent target “every day”.

He told the Standard: “This is what drives us in the decisions we make.

“There was a danger we would have a car-led recovery – that doing the right thing during the pandemic and staying away from the public transport network would mean people would get back in their cars and stay in their cars.

“The report is encouraging in the sense that people are returning to public and active transport. If you look at the individual boroughs, it’s interesting. We have some [inner London] boroughs that are close to 95 per cent in terms of the journeys that are undertaken by public and active transport.

The first Superloop buses will run between Uxbridge and White City on the SL8 route (Ross Lydall)
The first Superloop buses will run between Uxbridge and White City on the SL8 route (Ross Lydall)

“Where we have new innovations such as the Superloop [express bus network] in outer London, they are really driving ridership. They are not just taking people from existing routes – they are new journeys.

“The whole purpose of the modal shift is to fight climate change and improve air quality but also to reduce congestion. Congestion costs businesses and Londoners millions of pounds every year. The fewer unnecessary car journeys that take place, the better.”