JASON COBB is a long-time blogger on Lambeth, with a broader interest in all things sarf London, a lido swimmer, a Surrey cricket fan who enjoys watching non-league football, and who travels to work by bike. After the deaths of five city cyclists in nine days, yesterday he posted this. Follow him on his journey…
There was an extra edginess to cycling around London on Friday. Five deaths in nine days focuses the mind. Nervous smiles could be seen at various junctions, a reassuring message to say: yeah, we can still do this…
I loathe the term “the cycling community”. Please don’t label me by my choice of transport, let alone try and connect me with the many hundreds of thousands of London commuters who also happen to choose the same mode of travel.
But the cycling community – perceived or otherwise – does need a response. The best reaction is to carry on doing what for most London cyclists is a safe and enjoyable way to get around town.
Visibility is important, both in the personal and the strong presence of cyclists continuing to use the roads. London may not feel like a wonderful place in which to cycle at the moment, but there have been so many tangible improvements since only a decade ago.
To cycle ten years ago was to be a weirdo. You were outcast as the loser that couldn’t afford a car. Now that the lifestyle [URGH] of cycling has taken hold of the capital, the… Critical Mass of riders has gone mainstream.
Once this happens, then hopefully safety follows.
It’s never as simple as that, but the political reaction to the five deaths shows that the volume of cyclists can’t be ignored. Finding a practical solution to keep London cyclists safe is the type of political problems that politicians hate. You can’t legislate for the personal actions of others.
The debates have been well played out this week – the segregation of cyclists, better awareness for both riders and other transport users, plus a return to the plain silly suggestion of taxing cyclists.
Three of the deaths have taken place on Cycle Superhighways. I hope that this doesn’t lead to an association of failure for the policy. Bow roundabout is hellish; CS2 is probably the worst “planning” for cycling implementation that you will see in all of London.
I actually feel relatively safe cycling along CS7 from Stockwell towards the City. Cycling on what is simply a strip of blue paint may be an illusional notion of safety, but it does send out a visible message to other road users to stay out of our space.
A complete segregation has to be the aim, but I doubt if the economic power is there, even if the political will is. You have to grab every handout that is given to you, and then keep on demanding for more.
The extra edginess and nervous smiles of Friday sat strangely with what was a beautiful day in which to ride a bicycle around London.
Everyday is a beautiful day to ride a bicycle around London, but crisp skies, dry conditions and a glorious sunrise over the river meant that this was the kind of morning best spent above ground rather than underground.
And then finally the working day was done and I headed back south over Vauxhall Bridge. The mini-etching into the left hand side of the bridge masquerading as a cycle lane is more of a boundary for the gutter than a safe cycling solution.
And then you are fed into the free-for-all that is Vauxhall Cross. Assertion is always required here, with a little added aggression to claim the space for cyclists.
It shouldn’t be like this. I ride for many reasons, one of which is to have a reflective period in which to empty my mind. This is not possible at Vauxhall and Elephant etc. You are forced to take on the horrid character of the Urban Cycle Warrior, Us Vs Them, which always leads to… well, not a pleasant way in which to share the road space.
And so there ends what has been a horrid, horrid week for London cyclists. I tried to finish with some optimism. It’s too easy to be cynical about the halfway house solution of the Superhighways.
They aren’t perfect but they a physical start to add more political pressure. As we have sadly seen this week, they can also kill when the planning appears to accommodate other road users as a priority.
Likewise there’s no point in having a folk devils and moral panic about cyclists. Much of the mainstream media coverage this week would put any reasoned person off cycling for good.
This is the exact opposite message that should come out of mid-November 2013 in London. Cycling has been brutal this week. But if you want to change this then the best response is not to be defeatist, but to help to complete the cycling revolution that is now becoming ever closer.
Stay safe, friends.
- Croydon Council, together with Transport for London, is proposing significant, multi-million pound expenditure on the roads into the centre of our town, principally to allow car drivers to get more readily to the new shops at the £1 billion Hammersfield development. It will be interesting to see what traffic calming or traffic reduction measures are proposed, or what safe cycling facilities are included.
- Council ignored danger warnings over deadly Mitcham Road
- Where there’s a wheel, there ought to be a way for cyclists
- Kenley road island could cause more deaths, says campaigner
- Dear Boris: an open letter on transport to the Mayor of London
Coming to Croydon
- Summer in February: Nov 18
- Library’s Dr Who day: Nov 23
- Much Ado About Nothing: Nov 25
- Future Tech City: Nov 30
- Follow in the footsteps of “Puff Puff” Pirie: Dec 1
- Comedy in Music show: Dec 1
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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- Protest vigil at Bow roundabout after woman cyclist is killed (standard.co.uk)
- Is Boris Johnson pushing too fast for a cycle-friendly London? (theguardian.com)
- Cycle deaths leave London bewildered (bbc.co.uk)