11 February 2012

London is a Cycling Town

Most of what Alberto and I love about cycling is getting out into the countryside, riding past farms, forests, thatched-roof cottages, thank kind of thing. But we live in London, a global city of 8 million inhabitants. For Alberto, cycling is pretty much his only form of transport. I tend to take a more mixed-methods approach. But we both do spend an awful lot of time cycling in the urban conditions of London.

Autumn 2009, sightseeing by bike.
As one would imagine,  London's got a lot of traffic. It has lots of big roads and scary junctions, lots of impatient drivers doing crazy things, lots of large lorries and busses. Bike theft is a cottage industry and the thieves never seem to get caught. It doesn't sound like a city that cyclists would love.

But the truth is, London is experiencing a surge in cycling (and I've formed part of that surge). When we first moved here in 2008, cycling wasn't an outrageous way to get around town but it wasn't particularly common either. Then, for a few years there would be a visible increase in cyclists on the first few warm days of spring/summer. In the summer months it would feel like half of London was on bikes! But this winter there has been no decrease in cyclists to accompany the frigid temperatures. People just keep on riding! There have also been a number of cyclist's cafes opening up around London, such as Look Mum No Hands which we love to go to to watch coverage of cycling races or talks by interesting cyclists.

Look Mum No Hands! (source)
We are lucky to have the numbers of cyclists on our streets; it makes it safer for all of us as drivers (and pedestrians) are less often surprised by the presence of a cyclist in their path. At big junctions at rush hour, there will often be seven or eight cyclists taking up the whole width of the road in the advanced stop box, forcing drivers to take it slow and give way to cyclists until they can get up to speed. And of course if something goes terribly wrong with your bike, you're never too far away from a bike shop (and even less further away from a fellow cyclist who may stop to help you out -- yes it does happen!)

Unfortunately, London infrastructure and transport policy has not caught up with the increase in cyclists. We have an upsetting number of cycling deaths each year, mainly involving lorries or other large vehicles. And of course there are lots more people who would love to commute via bike, but are intimidated by the busy roads. There are too few cycle parking options across most of London and too many bike thieves who don't get caught.

Publicity from LCC's Love London Go Dutch campaign (source)

The past week or so has seen the launch of two new and exciting campaigns in London focussed around improving the lot of us London cyclists. The London Cycling Campaign (of which we are both members) has launched it's "Love London, Go Dutch" campaign ahead of the mayoral election in May, which calls for London to create the kind of cycling infrastructure that exists in Holland.

Then there is the Times' "Cities fit for cycling" campaign which was launched after one of their reporters was seriously injured while cycling to work. This is perhaps even more exciting than the LCC as it's a mainstream paper with lots of readers who probably aren't particularly attuned to the difficulties that cyclists face. You may notice a new addition on the right hand side of the blog indicating our support for the campaign.

The Times' campaign (source)

London needs to be safer and more accommodating for cyclists. But in the meantime it's great to live in a city with such a strong and vibrant cycling community.

1 comment:

  1. Keep promoting the Times Cities for safer cycling campaign. It is a very worthy cause.