9 avr. 2015

Bicycle culture in London part 1: London's cycling policy...

The only informations I had about biking in London were strange projects of cycle tracks disconnected to urban life, cyclists killed by trucks, the blue colour of Barclays bank trying to do some greenwashing by promoting a cycle superhighway network or cycle renting and the mayor of London, the famous Boris Johnson who was predicting that London will become as welcoming to bikes as Amsterdam or Copenhagen. It was time for me to see with my own eyes what was happening in London, for real…

Exiting the railway station I was pleased to see a lots of cyclists riding downtown. I was much less pleased to observe they were riding in the middle of the traffic, slaloming between trucks, buses, taxis and cars because there actually is no cycling infrastructure in London. My apology, there is but it's so rare and narrow, (the average width for a cycle track is 1 meter -1,5 m in France-) you can't call it a specific biking pathway.




Therefore, most part of London's cyclists are hardcore male who are training for the Tour de France or for the cycle messenger world championships. They're all riding with racing bicycles or fixies, and lots of them are wearing flashing cycling clothes and helmets. 





Fortunately, from time to time, you can see cyclists riding with style, in everyday clothes, on a Barclay rental bike or a classical one. 

 

 

I didn’t see any kids riding their bikes to go to school during the three days I spent in London, nor superpops, nor mums going to the nursery with their baby in a rear seat or in a cargo bike, nor old people riding their bike to stay in good health… Instead I saw lots of cyclists pedalling with a gas mask to prevent them from air pollution…


Trying to promote public transports use by taxing cars in the city center is good (drivers have to pay 10,5£ (14,5 €) per day to move in the congestion charge zone) but it seems like London has forgotten for many decades to promote bicycle at the same time. The congestion charge is working since July 2005 and the first actions of London to promote bicycle was put in service in 2010 with the Barclays cycle hire and the first Barclays cycle superhighway (more informations about this two projects in following articles...)

But to put different people then hardcore cyclists on bikes, City of London has to improve roads safety. This the only city where I saw ghost bikes, exactly three... Cars and trucks have killed so many cyclists they have forced the city of London to do something good for the cyclists. First one is communication about trucks blind spots. Buses and many trucks have flyers in the rear to remember cyclists the danger of overtaking this kind of vehicles. City is also preventing cyclists to respect the traffic laws and cycling policemen are watching out reckless cyclists who jump the traffic lights... 







At last, thanks to the work of lots of people, associations and especially the London cycling campaign, things are going to move. The city is planning new segregated cycle superhighway... Maybe I have to come back in several years to see if London is becoming Amsterhagen or Copendam. But for the moment London is the least bicycle friendly city I rode!

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