Cycling in London

There’s been quite a bit of debate about the dangers of cycling in London, ironically this relates specifically the much promoted “cycling superhighway”.

However there has been a spate of accidents and deaths along these routes, in part due to the ill-conceived design and layout of these cycle routes, and in part due to the large number of dickheads on the roads, who tend to ignore the rules and put cyclists in danger, as these tales of woe from London cyclists highlights, or this range of video’s from helmet cams.

The problems in London are multiple. The heavy congestion in London streets (given the age of many of the cities streets there is little room for widening them), lack of parking, the expense of parking and of course the congestion charge, plus the high costs of public transport has all meant that increasingly the bicycle is seen as the best way to commute to work or get around town (the quickest way to get around London is now on a bicycle, even Top Gear seemed to acknowledge that in a prior episode).

However, as noted, the problem is that many motorists don’t seem to understand how to share the roads with cyclists. Taxi drivers can be a big problem. As a cyclist myself I’ve become attuned to the tone of a cab’s diesel engine as that usually means trouble. Trucks, in particular articulated lorry’s are a major problem, particular at traffic lights and in particular where “elf n’safety” types have put up barriers which cyclists can be crushed against.

As a motorists myself, yes I see some cyclists doing some very silly things, but equally I’d struggle to argue that cyclists are any more dangerous than pedestrians (the number of times I’ve had pedestrians, in particular children try and step out in front of me, even after looking both ways!) or motorists. There’s bad cyclists same as there are other idiot road users. The difference is that cyclists rarely kill anyone other than themselves, unlike a motorist.

To me what needs to happen is a fundamental rethink. In other parts of the world, cyclists are safer for two reasons. Cycle lanes are separated from other road users and pedestrians (often on dedicated cycle paths). Secondly, motorists tend to be more considerate towards cyclists. In part because many are cyclists themselves, but also because the penalties for acting like British motorists do tend to be all the more severe (on the spot fines of hundreds or even thousand’s of euro’s, enough points to potentially loose you’re license). Nevermind what happens to you if you actually hit a cyclist! Insurance claims in Holland for example, tend to be met by the driver’s policy.

The same needs to be done in the UK. I’d instead move cycle lanes onto quieter back streets, which are cul-de-sac’ed or made access only for residents. Poor planning of cycle routes also often forces cyclists to do things such as crossing roundabouts or undergoing right hand turns, two of the most dangerous thing you can do on a bike.

When I used to cycle to work I specifically followed a route that went along quiet streets and avoided busy junctions. I don’t cycle to work these days as I can’t identify a route to my present place of work that avoids such hazards.

I’d also reconsider the idea of letting taxi’s use bus lanes, given the frequent hazard they present to cyclists. If taxi drivers complain, point out to them that they can thank their psycho colleagues for this.

I’d also question the wisdom of letting articulated lorries into the narrow streets of UK cities. There are all sorts of blind spots around trucks, making them a hazard not just to cyclists, but to cars, pedestrians and even the streets themselves (if you’ve ever seen an artic lorry doing a reverse parking manoeuvre in a city street, you’ll know what I’m on about!). I’m quite sure the transport companies would complain, but I’d recall that once upon a time it was quite normal for shops to get their supplies from a distributor warehouse via a van.

And finally there’s an issue of enforcement. The police don’t take appropriate enforcement action against aggressive driving by motorists against cyclists (as this example shows). Frequently they just seem to surge they’re shoulders and do nothing. I’d consider a new offence of “endangering a cyclists” which would automatically carry a heavy fine and plenty of points on a license for such bad driving. With anyone who actually hits a cyclists getting some sort of driving ban automatically. And as taxi drivers are a particular threat, I’d make sure this law stripped them of their right to operate a taxi (thus ensuring they’ll behave or risk losing their job!).

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2 thoughts on “Cycling in London

  1. Some sensible suggestions there. I’m a fairly considerate driver but the hard core cyclists who think the rules of the road only apply to other people (ie the cyclist who was nearly killed by me when he went straight through a red light or the one last week who thought a One Way road was only for cars) ought to be strung up. They’re a fucking menace to drivers and pedestrians alike.
    Most, however, do their best and are at the mercy of heavy traffic.

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    • There are some cyclists who can be pretty bad, some may not have driving license and thus don’t understand the rules of the road. But sometimes I find its because of our road layouts, which force cyclists into very dangerous situations.

      Take part of my current route to work, why I don’t cycle anymore is because at one point I face the choice between going down the side of a dual carriage way in a very busy bus lane and taking several dodgy right hand turns (one at a round about) the other is to go either on the pavement or road the wrong way down a one way street.

      Naturally I’d rather do neither and walk it instead, but can certainly see what some choose to do so.

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