Cycling: needs and desires

The NewsEditor
LU Bike Hire

We almost missed this article in The Guardian by John Whitelegg of the Stockholm Environment Institute and John Moores University. It’s worth a read. At a time when the Mayor is moving forwards with plans for electric bikes in hilly Haringey, Mr Whitelegg suggests that such a scheme would rank as number 11 in the top 10 things Boris should do to improve the lot of cyclists – important no doubt, but not essential.

Here are his proposals to improve the situation:

  • Combine cycling with public transport. In Tokyo there are more than two million bike parking spaces at metro and suburban rail stations. Cyclists can easily cover the distance from home to the station and then take the train. London has 1669 bike parking spaces per 100,000 population and Tokyo has 6398.
  • Give cyclists state of the art, segregated, traffic free cycle routes that follow major "desire" lines eg trips to key employment, education, shopping, and health centres.
  • Extend the congestion charge area to include the whole of London (all 32 boroughs) to produce a reduction in car trips overall and add to the safety, security and attractiveness of cycling because there is less traffic and at the same time a financial incentive to use the bike.
  • Set up a completely new system of speed control and enforcement in London based on community speedwatch initiatives to empower local people to do the speed checks and relieve the police of this duty. Citizens detect the anti-social speeding behaviour (more than 20mph) and the police deal with the offenders. Speed reduction and enforcement will reassure those groups currently under-represented in cycling trips in London, mainly women and older people.
  • Ensure that every HGV/lorry operating in London was retro-fitted with state of the art equipment for making sure that cyclists are constantly in view, especially at junctions, and drivers were aware of a duty to make sure that cyclists are not endangered by turning manoeuvres.
  • Apply similar travel plan measures to all schools. There will be a presumption that the vast majority of children will not be taken to school by car and small scale street re-design will be facilitated to make cycling a safe, secure alternative

To be fair, some of these are already in progress, some under negotiation, and others likely non-starters. Yes, a London-wide Congestion Charge would probably help decrease traffic pressures as Mr Whitelegg suggests, but other factors mitigate strongly against it.

The Mayor is making progress, albeit sometimes very slowly, with a bold cycling plan that extends beyond simply splashing around some blue paint. Any change to traffic measures in a city like London will require everyone to make adjustments, be they cars, HGVs or pedestrians – and balancing those competing desires is very tricky indeed. As Jon Snow noted yesterday, cyclists too have a part to play in making the roads safer for everyone.