Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Does Jeremy Clarkson also think the Lord Mayor of London is anti-banker? Cycling starts to come of age in the Square Mile

Lord Mayor of the City of London gets behind his
bicycle. See pic top left.
The City of London has invited me to a charity event later this year dubbed City Cycle Style. I will be delighted to attend.

The flyer includes this image shown on the left. Boris Johnson is a familiar face. Less familiar to many will be Alderman Michael Bear, Lord Mayor of the City of London. He's featured here with a rather plush bicycle in the top left of the image.

If this picture is anything to go by, I wonder if Jeremy Clarkson believes the Lord Mayor of the City of London is a propaganda weapon in the war on capitalism and banking? From all the evidence I hear, he's a keen cyclist. He is going to host a cycling event focussed on the Square Mile to raise money for charity. And good on him.

So far so good, then. I've been banging on for months on this site about the fact that ordinary people use bicycles to get around. And to make the point that normal people would like to feel they have the choice to use cycles to get around.

Full marks, frankly, to the Lord Mayor and to the City of London for standing up and doing their bit to show that people who use cycles are not the anti-capitalists or the anti-bankers that Jeremy Clarkson might have us believe.

Is stylish cycling even possible yet? Or are you
more concerned just to get through this road
layout and stay alive?

But here's the rub.

Pictured left is Cycle Superhighway 7 pictured this morning at 7.45am on my way to work as I enter the City of London over Southwark Bridge. This was the scene at rush-hour this morning. The superhighway is the bit in blue. As you can see, the cycle lane is full of HGVs, buses, white vans. There's a group of people on cycles waiting at the traffic lights just in front of the bus.

This is a 'ghost cycle lane'. Some blue paint to encourage people to cycle between HGVs in order to get to the junction. I think ghost lanes are a disaster. They fail to create a safe space to cycle in. And they confuse motor drivers.

But what most people don't realise is that ghost cycle lanes like this are the result of a policy decision by Transport for London. It is a deliberate policy not to create safe space for people to cycle in. In this particular case, I don't think there's much the City of London can do about it - it's a project designed for and paid by Transport for London. An authority that reports to a different Mayor - Boris Johnson, Mayor of London.

Only when Transport for London realises that London's streets need to be usable by a 12-year old on a cycle independently of an adult, something that is perfectly normal in other cities in Europe, only then will the Lord Mayor of London really be able to say that cycling is an 'enjoyable, stylish lifestyle choice that need not involved specialist sports cycling clothing or high speeds'.

I'm delighted the City of London is starting to get behind cycling and bringing the issue of cycling into the mainstream. But I feel quite strongly that it's not purely about style. It's about creating conditions on our streets that enable people to cycle and feel they are doing something normal. That means giving people space to cycle in safely.


City Cycle Style exhibition

P.S. Good luck finding somewhere to park your bike nearby...!


  1. It is interesting, and significant, if true, that Michael Bear is a "keen cyclist". For he is Regeneration Director of Hammerson plc, who are pushing forward the profoundly anti-cycling, anti-walking, anti-public transport, and car-centric Brent Cross Crickewood development in Barnet, against the opposition of all the surrounding boroughs and a wide cross-section of the local community, who believe it will be an environmental disaster, particularly in terms of traffic generation. Brent Cyclists believe the scheme will be very bad for cycling in the area.

  2. I'm all in favour of projecting an image of cyclists as normal people, away from lycra and cleats, but I am not sure how much "propaganda" value there is in an exhibition with a £20 entrance fee. How will the event achieve wider publicity?

    On keen cyclists, one is often surprised to discover just who is among the number of enthusiasts, but I guess there is a world of difference between someone who is keen to load his full-sus MTB on the back of his BMW X5 and head down to Leith Hill, or pound the miles in Audax and Sportives, and someone who is keen to do the commute, or the shop, or the pub/cinema on two wheels.

  3. Paul M - I do agree - I mean John Franklin is undoubtedly a keen cyclist...

  4. I can't understand why people bother to quote Jeremy Clarkson. He is not saying things for the information value but for the comedic value.

    I am a keen commuter (part lycra) cyclist - up until 9 years ago I was a banker for 15 years and in fact was one of the actual Masters of the universe (Salomon's Arb Desk traders) and really I took no offence at Clarkson's article - I laughed at it, like I do at lot of his stuff, I never take what he says seriously, if anything it is useful as it moves cycling up the agenda of discussion around the homes of Britain. As an aside I read somewhere that Clarkson is seen quite often on a bike around where he lives

    With respect to cycling - I find it wonderful the amount of cyclists I see on the roads as I go to or from work and I am happy to see it grow in popularity so quickly. Mind you I am not sure how dense those numbers will be come the winter.

    It is interesting in what you say about paths being safe enough for a 12 year old.

  5. @Idle Boy It's nonsense to suggest that people like Clarkson don't have influence. If you repeat a big lie often enough, people will believe it, and he's always very keen to project the lie that every cyclist is a sandal-wearing hippy. Well done to Danny for helping to bust the myth.