Monday, 5 August 2013

Suppressed Demand for Cycling demonstrated by RideLondon this weekend and the tragic killing of *another* Londoner on a bike this morning by an HGV driver

More than 80,000 people took part in various events for RideLondon last weekend, including a traffic-free FreeCycle on Saturday which allowed people to cycle around a closed loop in Central London without worrying about being killed by idiotically designed pinch points or irresponsible drivers.

Mark Treasure, who writes AsEasyAsRidingABike as well as chairing The Cycle Embassy of Great Britain, has recently written about the 'suppressed demand' which events like Skyride show, and I can't help agreeing with him.

Parliament Square flooded with cyclists for FreeCycle on Saturday. Photo via @redeader.
If you close the roads, even just from 9am-4pm, tens of thousands of people will want to cycle on them. This is partly a measure of just how popular cycling in this country now is; it's a surprising figure, but we now buy the fifth most bikes per head of any country in Europe.

Photo via @AsEasyAsRiding.
However, the huge popularity of closed road cycling events (which only actually started in this country in 2007) is also a sign of just how grim and dangerous our roads are to cycle on. Even on Cheapside, which was redesigned in 2011 (!), the new pinch points and narrow lanes make it hell for those on two wheels.

Would you ever let a child cycle on this road if it was open to motor-traffic? The painted cycle sign is absolutely useless. There is no excuse for not providing a proper, continuous, segregated cycle lane here. Photo via @AsEasyAsRding.
Despite being fifth in Europe in terms of bikes bought per head, Britain is tenth when it comes to cycle safety. And given this, and the atrociously bad layout of most of London's roads, it comes as little surprise that another Londoner was killed by a lorry driver this morning while cycling along Archway Road.

We need segregated lanes to stop this happening, and we need them now. 

Events like RideLondon do not make it any safer to cycle around our capital on the following Monday, but they do show that if international-standard segregated cycle lanes were built in London (rather than further road-narrowing idiocy as on Cheapside and as planned for Haymarket), these cycle lanes would be full to bursting with Brits who just want to be able to ride their bikes without having to worry about a driver ploughing into the back of them. Close the roads and they will become. This weekend showed that to be the case. Build segregated cycle lanes which are, in essence, like mini closed roads where motorised vehicles can't drive, and they will surely come too.

As Mark Treasure argues:
the whole concept of Skyrides unintentionally serves to demonstrate the abysmal state of cycling in Britain. Children and their families can cycle pretty much anywhere, at any time, in towns and cities in the Netherlands; in Britain, by contrast, they have to make do with a small closed road loop event that occurs once a year.
There couldn't be better evidence for the potentially overwhelming popularity of safe segregated cycle lanes in cities like London than the fact people will literally drive their bikes into Westminster, in order to cycle on a traffic free road once there.

There couldn't be better evidence for the fact many of London's roads are very dangerous to cycle on than the fact that another person a bike was killed this morning, bringing the total number of Londoners killed on bikes since Boris Johnson took office in 2008 to 70.

Clearly Britons do not feel it is safe enough to cycle on normal roads to closed roads events. This is because we don't have safe, continuous segregated cycle lanes; as in the rest of Northern Europe. Photo via @MadCycleLaneMCR.
Saying that we don't have the space to build safe, continuous segregated cycle lanes in London because of 'narrow roads' is just specious rubbish.

Barely room for six lanes of motor traffic here on the Cromwell Road outside the Victoria and Albert Museum. Hardly space for a safe cycle lane.
Another one of London's famous 'narrow medieval roads' with no space for proper cycle lanes. This boulevard in Holland Park looks right out of the 11th century.
I strongly feel that in the wake of a sixth cyclist being killed in London this year alone, the London Cycling Campaign should organise another Protest Ride before their planned ride on 2 September. RideLondon has put cycling into everyone's minds and achieved comprehensive news coverage. A Protest Ride in response to yet another Londoner being killed by an HGV driver (the fourth this year) would put the woeful state of London's roads into the public consciousness too, and make everyone realise the desperate need for real road-design change in order to stop the continual killing of Londoners on bikes. I personally feel that Haymarket would be the perfect place for such a Protest Ride, given that Westminster Council and The Crown Estate are spending £8 million making the area worse for cycling (and it's already atrocious).