Cycling In The City Talks Elections

The Tour Du Danger, last november (Photo by Zefrog from the Londonist Flickr Pool)

Last time we did this (a Mayoral election) no one spent very much time talking about cycling – this time it’s been different. Boris’s interventions, loved or hated, have played a big part in changing that – but another huge factor has been the constant efforts of bloggers and campaigners to hold the Mayoralty and TfL to account. One of those bloggers is Danny Williams, whose blog, Cyclists in the City, was the spearhead of the battle for Blackfriars Bridge, and instigated November’s Tour Du Danger. We asked Danny for his thoughts on the state of cycling in the capital.

What are the key issues in London cycling at the moment?
I think the key issue is that the current Mayor wants to plan for more roads and more motor traffic in London. Instead of focusing on road building (and all the disruption, pollution, damage to people’s streets and neighbourhoods), he should create conditions where most people think cycling is a sensible alternative to taking the car. It can be done, he just needs to tell his transport people that’s what he wants.

What would you like to see the Mayor and Assembly do?
Focus on things that make a real difference like safer routes for cycling where people don’t feel intimated by motor traffic and not just putting blue paint down the middle of the road any more.

If Londonist gave you £60m, what would you do to make London better?
Building two really top quality routes for cycling right through London. One going east>west and the other north>south. They should be routes where cycling is the priority form of transport. There are thousands of routes where motor traffic is the priority form of transport. It’s time that cycling had at least two to make a real difference.

Danny (and Londonist) will be at the Big Ride this Saturday.

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  • Tony Woolf

    Danny Williams’ heart is in the right place, but his idea of  “two really top quality routes for cycling” is all wrong.  Think about it in practice: first you have to cycle to the route, then along it, and then from the route to your destination.  It would be almost no help for most cycling journeys of only a few miles. 
    The real challenge is more difficult.  Most London main roads don’t have space for dedicated cycle lanes.  So to imrprove safety, either we must restrict cyclists to minor roads and those few main roads with special facilities (which a lot of motorists would like) or we have to change people’s behaviour.  Cyclists have their part in this, there is a lot of irresponsible cycling.  But the main change that’s needed is for motorists to understand that cyclists have a right to the road. 
    Most motorists have learnt to be patient when waiting at a red light or zebra, but many still have to learn to be patient when behind a cyclist.  Changing minds is hard, but it can be done: drunk driving is no longer socially acceptable.  I wonder if our society has the will to try.

    • Anonymous

      I find that argument (vehicular cycling, or near enough) compelling, but reality has show it doesn’t work in my experience – cities where people cycle in significant number (Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam – increasingly New York, Chicago…) are cities with infrastructure at the heart of their cycling strategies.

      I can have all the right in the world to cycle on the A40, but that doesn’t make it safe, and it doesn’t make it desirable.

      Go dutch!

  • http://twitter.com/AndrewTobert andrew tobert

    “Most London main roads don’t have space for dedicated cycle lanes.” Really? Not the ones i’ve seen. Euston Road -4 lanes of traffic,  no bike lanes. TCR, 5 lanes of traffic including parking, no bikes lanes. Kingsland Road/A10 4 lanes of traffic in places, no bike lane. The A2? Again, 4 lanes in places, no bike lanes. Regent Street? you get the idea. 
    There is bags of room for bike lanes in London, we just need less space for cars. 

  • Simon

     ”his idea of  “two really top quality routes for cycling” is all wrong”
    I disagree wholeheartedly with you. Two routes isn’t the end game, it’s the start – from there you add feeder routes and ‘branch lines’.  These routes would be what the Superhighways *should* have been (but have completely failed to be) .  Cycle commuters heading into zone 1 almost certainly use parts of one of the superhighway network already – 2 main arterial routes would improve some of the journey of a huge number of people. 

    The idea that ‘London main roads don’t have space for dedicated cycle lanes’ is also nonsense. Huge amounts of the London road system DO have space for both motorised traffic and dedicated cycle facilities  - check out the ‘main roads’ on this site for examples http://goo.gl/dQwUB 

    If we accept that we will have to reallocate some of the road space then much more of the network opens up. European cities are managing to do this, even New York is managing to do this, but in London it’s still considered unacceptable.  

  • Fred

    Yes, there’s plenty of room. It’s true you can’t always find room for high-quality cycle lanes on some of the narrower main roads (charing cross rd, for example), but you can take a minor road nearby (wardour st?), reduce the speed limit to 20, stop all the through-traffic, reduce the parking, and make it a priority route for bikes instead. 

    And, yes, two routes would just be a start, to prove the concept.

    • Tony Woolf

      Yes, it’s probably easier to provide space for cyclists than to change attitudes.  And politicians love flagship schemes.  Two high profile routes to point to and they’ll think they’ve done their bit for cycling. 

      But you might wait a very long time for the next two. And you need quite a dense network to be really useful for most cyclists. Even the old London Cycle Network isn’t a lot of use to me except for fairly long journeys.

      Is it really the right answer, to clear the cyclists out of the path of motorists so they can drive without paying too much attention to what might be in the way?   We can’t be forced to use the existing cycle lanes and tracks because it’s easy to point to their deficiencies, but with shiny new super-routes, how long before cyclists are restricted to them?