Wednesday, 12 October 2011

All four political parties on their bicycles at Blackfriars. We're beginning to make clear we want a proper agency to make proper routes for cycling

Blackfriars Bridge 12 October, by zefrog on flickr
The policeman said it: "No, thank you. If we weren't in uniform, we'd have joined you tonight".

That's before another policeman confirmed that over 2,000 people joined the Blackfriars flashride this evening, probably nearer to 2,500 people.

A quiet procession of people on their cycles, a few children, some dogs as well. All calm, good natured. And stopping at red lights, no less.

A line up of political parties on Blackfriars - courtesy zefrog

And, fascinatingly, the evening included a politician from each and every party on a bicycle. The line-up included:

From the LibDems - Brian Paddick and Caroline Pidgeon

From Labour - Val Shawcross

From the Conservatives - Andrew Boff

From the Green Party - Jenny Jones

I'm flagging up the politicians because I've never seen a cycling-related protest before that included cross party and senior political support. And the common topic among the politicians seemed to be this: Boris isn't listening. It's a non-issue. Or words to that effect.

Which is a shame really. A very big shame. Slowly but surely cycling is becoming mainstream. It's just a bicycle. It's something that people do to get to work or the shops. It shouldn't be a big deal to have safe, sensible infrastructure for cycling. There's plenty of space and there's plenty of capacity to build it. But there seems to be a real lack of political will from the Mayor to really get behind a movement for Londoners who want cycling to be given proper consideration on London's roads.

I was sent this email earlier from someone writing to Peter Hendy, London's Transport Commissioner. He wrote: "I think it's fair to say that the utter uselessness of Cycle Super Highway 2 would have Dutch and German cyclists in hysterics...It cuts and turns in the most random manner. One moment it is in the bus lane...the next I'm told to move from lane to lane. [In many places] cyclists literally have nowhere to go on the street. What is the point of building a cycling lane and letting people park in it...If TfL was in charge of the Highways Agency, the M4 would be full of potholes and would suddenly change into a country lane with no warning". 

Not my words but I agree with most of them. Many of us who cycle in London are also 'motorists'. We know what good road design looks like because we use it when we drive. Blackfriars isn't about just one bridge. I think it's about people saying they want a proper agency to design proper routes for cycling - something like the designs coming out of the London Cycling Campaign this week. And it's very encouraging to see London's politicians giving their support. It's a start but a good one.

For a full series of images from the 3rd Blackfriars Flashride, click here.