November 2017

Traffic count: highest ever Nov bike %, despite extra diverted cars

Our November traffic count, averaged over our 4 regular count points, found bikes forming 16.5% of all vehicles – our highest ever November percentage, just over last year’s 16.4%.   Bikes comprised 22.9% of all citybound vehicles (the highest ever) and 8.2% southbound (down slightly from 8.9% last year). 

We expected private car numbers to rise at our count points due to the 10-month closure of Leith Street to motor traffic, and the massive drainage works at Haymarket – but the increase was modest, from a total of 1535 cars at our 4 count points to 1626 between 8am and 9am, still our second lowest ever November car figure.  And since bike trips also rose, this allowed the bike percentage to inch up from 16.4% to 16.5%.

As usual, we counted bikes, cars and commercial vehicles in both directions on Lothian Road and Forrest Road on the second Tuesday in November, during rush hour  [see * below for a special note on Forrest Road].  All figures below are for the 8-9am peak hour.

See the full count data and trends from 2006 to the present on our traffic counts page.


Compared to our first ever November count, in 2006, bikes are up 40% from 335 to 468, whilst cars, even with the Leith Street closure diversions, are down 24% from 2141 vehicles to just 1626.

This is a success for the Council, which has a bold Local Transport Strategy target to cut car use from 43% of all trips in 2010 to just 31% in 2020, and car commuting from 42% to 29%.  The long-term trend of rising cycling and declining city centre car commuting in our counts also ties in with trends in the 2011 census.

Although there was little change in total commercial vehicle numbers [buses, taxis, vans and lorries] there was a shift from Forrest Road to Lothian Road – see below.

Most cars, 78%, had only one occupant – a huge waste of precious roadspace in the heart of the city.  The 2011 Edinburgh census data confirms this picture, and additionally shows that many of the multi-occupant cars are on the school run.  Therefore single-occupancy commuting is almost certainly significantly worse than our 78% figure.


The number of bikes on Lothian Road was almost identical to last November (up by 3) whereas both cars and commercial vehicles rose noticeably, yet bikes still comprised 18.8% of citybound vehicles.   This level of cycling demand surely cries out for protected cycling provision on this relatively wide, but scary, city-centre road.  There are few roads in the city which would benefit so strongly from such a scheme and, as shown by the London superhighways [video1][video2], there is almost certainly a big pent-up further demand from people who’d like to cycle but don’t feel safe until they have the right conditions.  Our anniversary Futures Board shows what it could be like.


In Forrest Road bikes rose significantly citybound, and commercial vehicles fell, and so even with a car increase bikes formed 27.2% of vehicles, up from 24.6% last November.

*Note that our 2 Forrest Road count points are north of Bristo triangle and so do not include traffic coming down Forrest Road then turning sharp right round the triangle.  However our counters did notice a significant rise in cars making this manoeuvre (presumably due to Leith Street closure) and therefore counted them after 8.30 – 62 cars – but, even including this, the car total was easily our second lowest ever.  However these extra cars appeared to overwhelm Forrest Road itself, with an almost permanent jam.


Unusually, there was a signficant change in commercial vehicle patterns (taxis, bus, vans etc), though their total was very similar to last year.  Numbers rose by around 55 (out of around 450) on Lothian Road, but fell around 55 (out of about 300) on Forrest Road.  Could the cause be diversions resulting from the Leith Street closure, with commercial vehicle drivers knowing that Forrest Road has become congested?


The Council should take every advantage of its success to speed up its plans to boost cycling (as well as walking and public transport).   The long-term decline in car numbers makes it much easier than 10 years ago to re-allocate roadspace.  The planned West-East segregated route and the Meadows – George Street CL+ project should be progressed robustly; and there is an ever stronger case for protected cycle facilities on Lothian Road.

  • If you agree – why not speak to or email your councillors??   Tell them about the survey results, and what you’d like to see happening now
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