Monday, 18 October 2010

Westminster and the bicycle

Over the weekend, I was invited to a party in a fashionable space in east London.

Lucky me.

Anyhow, who should be there but one of Westminster's Conservative councillors. He shall remain nameless because he was a nice chap. Until we got to the topic of cycling.

His personal view on cycling and TfL's superhighways and cycle hire: "You lot are getting more attention than you deserve."

And then switching slightly, we talked about why Westminster is so doggedly anti-cycling. Now admittedly, the tone was slightly alcohol-infused at this point and this was banter at a party rather than official speaking. At no point did he specifically state this is council policy but he inferred pretty clearly that this is how Westminster tends to think about cycling. He described cycling as being a 'should' and 'should not' issue. Something like this:

"You should be allowed to cycle but you shouldn't need anything from us to help you do it"

"If you don't think [the cycling facilities are good], you should drive."

Fabulous. So a Tory councillor representing the heart of a city where the Tory mayor is trying to create a 'cycling revolution' believes that cycling doesn't require any specific infrastructure and that people should drive around the borough. I tried to point out that he should have tried cycling around Hyde Park Corner before the cycle crossings were put in and see if he, a cycling novice, still believed that there's no need for cycling-specific infrastructure. He wasn't having it.

I'm not sure which of his comments concerned me the most. I think, probably his point about 'us lot' getting more attention than we deserve. If that's the case, something's going very wrong. I don't think most people who cycle rate London's cycling facilities particularly highly. But if our local politicians feel that we are getting a disproportionate amount of the money when things are tight and don't support that focus, then we're in for a rough ride. All the more so, since it's the local politicians who will be deciding the fate of cycling through their new money pot, the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, the supposed vehicle for things cycling-related.

I don't know about you, but almost none of the people I know who use bicycles are using them to be more 'sustainable'. They're using them because they make sense as a way to get around.

I think Mark over at ibikelondon is right: Start your engines, folks. If you want things to improve, you're going to have to shout about it.