Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Copied from the blog : “ Cyclists in the City “!
The Seattle Times interviewed an official at Transport for London:
"In some ways, a bike riding novice in London is like a beginning skier in the Alps, according to Lilli Matson, an official with Transport of London - they need to be careful. She suggests that newcomers practice riding in safe zones such as London's flat Hyde Park." Lilli Matson is the head of delivery for the aptly-named 'Better Routes and Places' team at Transport for London. Her comment is just so so wrong. And yet she's absolutely right. Cycling in London is like beginning skiing in London.
And that's the problem. It shouldn't be like learning to ski. It should be like Montreal, where everyone can cycle and pretty much all shapes, ages and sizes do seem to cycle. London is turning cycling into an extreme sport - complete with hi-viz and helmets. Meanwhile, people in Montreal just happen to get about using bicycles. No helmets (or very few), no hi-viz. Most people didn't use lights at night, I noticed.
Motor vehicles: give way to people on bikes please !
Another US magazine has also been talking about cycling in London recently. The headline described cycling in London as "hell on two wheels". Using a bike in London is "like Darwinism" and that "only the fittest survive". The article in Atlantic Magazine is pretty straight-talking and it verges at points on the offensive. But both this piece and the article in the Seattle Times are hinting at the same thing. London has got its cycling culture really wrong. With the notable exception of a few small patches in, say Hackney, cycling in London is either commuting at speed or on Sundays when the streets are quieter. It still hasn't broken through to become something that literally everyone and anyone does just to get around.
And for that, I blame the Mayor and Transport for London. We are still designing cycle super highways that operate only at peak hours and are woefully inadequate when you compare them with what's being built in New York or Montreal.
London has exactly the same cycle hire bikes as Montreal. And now New York is launching its cycle hire scheme. Exactly the same bikes. And both cities are building extensive cycle networks with big, protected cycle lanes, priority for people on bikes at junctions. They're doing it right. London bought the bikes and then left Londoners to go play with the motor cars. I think that's wrong.
Those arriving in London seeing the same type of bike available are in for a SHOCKING EXPERIENCE ! As for those whose budget no longer stretches to cope with “ Day to day living expenses “ , what does the above tell them about the choice of a bike as a form of transport ?
Experienced as I am in riding the bike , and my instincts work better than most , I have still broken too many helmets , luckily no broken bones and had too many near misses in traffic . Taking to skiing , I was lucky , went through a season from beginner to instructor level . Would hate to think of what would have happened if I took up cycling in London ! Like others I would have probably valued my neck and quit !
Amused to turn on ORF Radio station FM4 today and hear Stuey Freeman report that his bike , left at work , had lost it’s saddle ! Appealed for the return , but fat chance ! That is in down town Vienna ! With Boris bikes , I wonder how many of those saddles go missing , are they worth stealing though ?
Whilst on the Dauphinee Libere Tour in Morzine I saw “ race style bikes “ available for rent at 35 euros /Day . Certainly a better proposition if the roads were safe .