The debate on the provision, or lack of it, for Croydon’s cyclists continues. Here, KRISTIAN GREGORY, pictured left, outlines how good investment in safe cycling routes can benefit many more people than just those who cycle
This time last year, London’s Mayor announced eye-catching levels of funding for cycling. The issue is creeping up the political agenda and the funding being made available is rising with it.
However, with the percentage of journeys in London being made by bicycle being around 2 per cent, or 1.49 per cent in Croydon 1.49%, making those who travel by bicycle something of a minority group. Why should the tax-payer be putting up large sums of money to meet the needs of so few?
Who is this money for? After all, as one Shirley Labour candidate for the upcoming elections stated, not everybody can ride a bike.
This comment, made during an exchange over Twitter, caught me by surprise, as I hadn’t mentioned cycling so far in the conversation, which was about shopkeepers habitually overestimating the importance of people arriving by car to their business, in relation to Labour’s proposals to increase the length of time that drivers can park for free outside shops on main roads in Shirley (from half an hour to one hour).
Marzia Nicodemi-Ehikioya is no fool however, and had simply jumped the gun, guessing I was getting around to making the point that the space on main roads where cars park is exactly the same space in which protected space for cycling could be built. However, I’m told not everybody can ride a bike, so that space should instead remain as a few car parking spaces.
The implication seems to be that everyone can drive. To drive you have to be over the age of 17, ruling out everyone under that age. You have to be able to afford to own, insure, tax and maintain a car. There are restrictions based on the state of your health. You have to have passed a driving test and be licensed.
Nearly one-third of households in Croydon do not have access to a motor vehicle. Not everybody can drive a car. Perhaps the implication was instead that those who can’t drive can at least be driven? I’m unconvinced being completely dependent on others for transport is an appealing thought to the majority, particularly for that one-third of households where no member owns a car.
It’s a much harder job to think of people who really can’t cycle. Croydon is the proud host to Wheels for Wellbeing, a charity which hosts regular cycling sessions at the Croydon Arena for people with a range of disabilities and health issues. Their website introduces themselves with the line, “Think you can’t cycle? Think again!” Whoever you are, they can get you cycling.
Hills aren’t the barrier they used to be either. Technology in the form of electric bikes has been developing fast, and prices are falling. You can pick up an electric bicycle in Croydon’s own “Cycling Made Easy” shop for less than £1,000. In Decathlon, Southwark, a brand new electric bike costs as little as £600. These prices are expected to continue to fall and we need to plan for a future in which electric bikes play a much larger part in urban transport.
Besides which, good cycling infrastructure is of use to more than just those who get about by bike. Scooters have been growing in popularity among children for getting to and from school for some years. Good cycle paths are suitable for mobility scooters, making them excellent resources for the elderly. They can be used by skateboarders, rollerskaters, rollerbladers or any other form of light, wheeled transport you can think of.
The reason we don’t have large amounts of people choosing these options right now is because they don’t feel safe sharing the same space as cars while travelling by these means. Of Londoners who do not cycle, 40 per cent say that the main reason for their not cycling is safety concerns. I suspect what Marzia really meant is that not everyone can cycle in Croydon. Cycling is for everyone, but we need to start choosing cycling infrastructure over extra carriageway and parking space if cycling is ever to be for everyone in Croydon.
Finally, 15 per cent of people have said in surveys that they simply have no interest in ever cycling. What’s in it for them? This could fill a whole new article in itself (and of course it has), but I’ll offer here only safer, quieter streets, cleaner air, and massive savings to the tax-payer on the NHS from the health benefits to a population that does plenty of cycling.
Coming to Croydon
- St Patrick’s Night celebration, Ruskin House, Mar 17
- Norwood Society Talk: West Norwood Cemetery, Mar 20
- South Norwood Lakes Playground group workshop, Mar 25
- David Lean Cinema: Basically Johnny Moped, Mar 27-28
- Croydon Half-marathon, Mar 30
- David Lean Cinema: 12 Years a Slave, Apr 3
- David Lean Cinema: The Great Beauty, Apr 10
- Norwood Society Talk: Crystal Palace, Apr 17
- David Lean Cinema: Inside Llewyn Davis, Apr 17
- Opening of Marlpit Lane bowling and putting greens, Apr 17
- Arts and Crafts Market, Exchange Square, Apr 19
- David Lean Cinema: Short Term, Apr 24
- Norwood Society Talk: West Norwood – a place of change, May 15
- Norwood Society Talk: The Concrete Church, June 19
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
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