Monday, 5 September 2011

Telegraph and Guardian both reveal how completely useless the Mayor's cycling revolution really is

Typical London cycling scene.
Would you cycle in conditions like this
unless you had to?
I wrote last week about how the man who is repsonsible for London's roads thinks that cycling along a main multi-lane road and crossing gyratories is a sensible way for people to cycle to the Olympics.

Well, it turns out the BBC's Transport correspondent Tom Edwards has also looked at the same routes. He's used material given to him by the Olympic Development Authority where the ODA suggests we should all cycle along to the London Olympics by darting between HGVs and buses and sprinting across urban motorways. His video on this link explains in more detail.

One alternative would be to cycle along the Olympic Greenway - a traffic free route. Except that as one person points out that doesn't really work either. If you read the comments to that BBC piece, you'll see this:

"As a disabled cyclist I am unable to use the Greenway due to the poor design of the gates which render it unusable for those with modified bikes or those who have to use panniers. So much for an accessible Olympic Games."

Specifically, this is what the cycling Greenway gates look like in action:

So, fine, you get a traffic-free route. But every few hundred metres, you have to stop, get off your cycle, and clamber over, under, around a piece of torture equipment.

In no other country have I ever seen a device like this. But in the UK, if you are a person in a motor vehicle you get priority and fast-moving roads. If you're a person on a cycle, you are expected to get off, clamber around some pathetic piece of ironwork, wait for all the nice people in their motor cars, cross the road, clamber around another pathetic piece of ironwork, continue on your way.

So, you're either forced to cycle along motorways or discouraged even from the off-road routes.

It's pathetic, frankly.

But it's very encouraging to see the mainstream media beginning to realise what an utter farce the Mayor's cycling revolution really is.

The Telegraph's Olympics Editor Jacquelin Magnay has an excellent piece "London 2012 Olympics: work to be done to make Games accessible for cyclists" She describes just how terrifying is the route suggested by the Olympic Development Authority: "Clearly there is still a lot of work to be done if these Games are to encourage and promote cycling in the city," she concludes.

Meanwhile, over at the Guardian, Dave Hill's excellent London blog reports on yesterday's mass-participation bike ride. He correctly notes that the Skyride is a "sign of a thwarted craving for far greater quantities of truly safer road space at all times"

Unlike the Telegraph's Magnay, he doesn't then cycle off home again. Why's that? It's the infrastructure, stupid. Reading between the very clear lines, he doesn't want to put himself in harms' way on London's road. One of the very many Londoners perhaps who would like to cycle but feel London's roads aren't safe enough to cycle on. He too concludes "Yes, road space is a limited resource, a white-hot crucible of competing road-user interests and so on. But it still seems to me that Boris's cycling revolution is further from completion than it might be."

You might wonder what Transport for London has to say about this sort of attitude.

Simple really: When it describes the new junction at Blackfriars, TfL says "This junction is not atypical of other central London junctions which work successfully for cyclists."

That's complete rubbish. The Blackfriars junction, like the junctions to the Olympics, are designed to allow only the fast, the brave and the slightly reckless to cycle on London's roads. The majority of Londoners aren't cyclists. But a lot of them want to be able to cycle here. But not in conditions like this. And not if TfL persists in thinking that junctions like Blackfriars 'work successfully' for cycling.

TfL's defiinition of 'successful cycling' seems to me to mean making cycling a fringe activity for a very small percentage of Londoners.

Transport for London is essentially sticking two fingers up at people who would like to cycle in London. And I'm delighted that the Guardian and the Telegraph are sensing just how underwhelming the Mayor's cycling revolution really is. I wonder if the BBC might catch up some day soon?


  1. Hi thanks for the link to my blog at the top of the page. However if you look at the piece I did on tv a month ago which is also on the blog it outlines many concerns from local cyclists and the London Cycling Campaign about cycling to the Olympics - including having to get round Stratford gyratory and a superhighway that finishes a mile short of the site. The piece is certainly critical of the plans. Just wanted to put record straight. cheers Tom Edwards, BBC London.

  2. Tom, thanks for the post. Have amended accordingly. Sorry, had slightly misrepresented your piece. Hope that's corrected now.

  3. No problem - And I did (for once) report it before Jacquelin and Dave. Broadsheets getting all the glory again !.. Nice blog btw Best Tom

  4. The problem with bluffing is that at some point someone will call it. Seems this is exactly what is happening. The problem is not enough people care about the situation to actually make Boris feel a shiver down the spine - in the eyes of your average Joe he will be the one promoting cycling and sustainable transport. Perhaps the coverage from broadsheets will help a bit.

  5. I would like to see parity. For every 'cyclists dismount' sign [calculated per regular cyclist], there needs to be the same number of 'motorists, now get out and push' signs.

    Seeing as only ~2% of journeys were made by bicycle and 41% were made as car / van driver [2009 NTS], there need to be ~20 times as many 'motorists, now get out and push' signs just to make things much fairer.

    Now that would really make a difference.