If you’ve started travelling to work by bike or by boat, you’re one of a growing throng of commuters abandoning the Tube and their cars for alternative modes of transport.
Last month, TfL published its latest Travel in London report showing just how much the daily commute has changed since the millennium and it’s encouraging reading for fitness fanatics and eco-warriors alike.
But it’s also good news for developers who have found themselves having to build higher as the city has got denser, turning the car parking space into a pricey add-on in many of London’s new developments.
“As parking spaces are surreptitiously given over to car club vehicles and Uber drivers increase their presence throughout the city, good parking will be increasingly unnecessary, even for those who can’t cycle,” says Nina Harrison, from property buying agent Haringtons.
Yet, the number of cyclists has doubled in 10 years, “especially among frequent users of the Underground” and those on higher incomes, according to TfL’s report, which also predicts that bikes will outnumber cars on London’s roads within two years.
There are around 10m Santander cycle hires a year, but this dropped by two per cent in 2015 due, TfL deduces, to heavy roadworks. But there are signs of growth as new infrastructure is completed, with July 2017 seeing a record-breaking number of hires.
“Asking about facilities for bike storage, proximity to Santander docking stations, and superhighway cycle routes are all now common questions we hear from buyers,” says Alex Greaves, head of new homes sales at estate agent Marsh & Parsons.
Developers are taking notice, too, offering bike storage as standard in many new homes, and even vouchers for cycling shops as buying incentives. This is particularly prevalent in new builds in Hackney, where 15 per cent of the local population cycles to work.
Improvements in riverside infrastructure have also boosted development prospects along the Thames. Land is scarce around Tube and rail links, where values are often inflated anyway. But TfL River Services has 3m more passengers in the last three years, with predictions more than doubling to 8m within five years.
Half of these are expected to be regular commuters, and this is fuelling demand for new homes around Thames Clippers piers. Many of these places have poor existing Tube links – Chelsea harbour, Vauxhall, Woolwich and, until recently, North Greenwich – so it’s no wonder big developers like Berkeley Homes, Barratt London, and Knight Dragon have all chosen to invest in these areas.
Asking about facilities for bike storage, proximity to Santander docking stations, and superhighway cycle routes are all now common questions we hear from buyers
“We’ve also had enquiries from people asking about the proximity to river taxis, as they now view this as an option for their regular commute,” adds Greaves. “Much more scenic, airy and enjoyable than the Tube.”
Buying agent Nina Harrison, recalls a recent purchase for a client who intended to use his speedboat to commute from Chelsea to Canary Wharf every day. “It will never be cheap getting on the water to work, but it’s a fantastic way to get through London,” she says.
TfL’s report also earmarks the Emirates Air Line – the cable car – as a growth area once new developments along the Royal Docks and Greenwich Peninsula are completed.
When it opened just before the 2012 Olympic Games, over 750,000 people used it in the first eight weeks. This number has dropped to between 80,000 and 200,000 passengers per four weeks, with uptake at its highest in the school holidays, proving its current novelty appeal to tourists.
Walking routes are also potentially huge. High residential values have lead to more office to residential conversions in central London, meaning more people can walk to work than ever before; currently 54 per cent make a “walk all the way” trip at least five days a week.
Three in five Londoners surveyed by TfL says they’d like to do it more often, but they’re put off by heavy traffic and air pollution. As we remove cars from central London by pedestrianising congested areas like Bank Junction and Oxford Circus, we may see an uptake in walk-to-workers, too.
While living near a train station is still highly desirable, living near a pier, cycle superhighway may become even more valuable in years to come.
Boat to the bank for Woolwich couple
Two banking professionals bought their first home partly for its proximity to the Thames Clipper, and now uses it to commute into work every day. Oliver and Susana Harrison had been renting in SW1 for four years before they decided to look further afield.
They chose a two bedroom apartment in Building 45, a warehouse conversion that’s part of Berkeley Homes’ £1.2bn Royal Arsenal Riverside regeneration project in Woolwich.
Though there are DLR and rail connections nearby, the couple choose to use the on-site Thames Clipper river bus stop to get to work.
“Being right on the river is fantastic, and was a big selling point for us when we first looked at buying here back in 2004,” Oliver says. “Getting the Thames Clipper is a much more relaxing way for us to get to work, and we meet so many of our neighbours when waiting to get on the boat each morning."
New homes near alternative transport
Keybridge from £575k
These new homes offer bike storage, and an electric car charging point. Vauxhall Thames Clippers pier and a Santander docking station are right oustide.
East City Point from £320k
On Cycle Superhighway 3, running from Barking to Tower Gateway.
Landmark Place from £862,500
Tower Millennium Pier is next to the site for the Thames Clipper Service.
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