08 October 2010

The river glideth at his own sweet will


papaOct10 117
Originally uploaded by cocosolis
I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday. We both have been to London in the last two weeks. We both have noticed the new Londo n... sorry: Barclay's cycle hire scheme. They are everywhere. They look great. My friend was there during the tube strike - so the bikes were flying off the racks, so to speak.

We both also noted that many users of this scheme don't seem, well, that at home with cycling in a busy city.  Or maybe the city is not at home with them - the latter, I think, is the underlaying problem, and it applies to the whole of the UK, but nowhere more so than in London, where cycling has exploded thanks to congestion charging and the fact that it is probably the country's most compact city (ie. people actually live in it, and do so in high density).

This isn't just a "cyclists vs. rest of the city" problem.  The mistrust and misunderstanding between different groups of road users is total - pedestrians, motorists and cyclists all have grievances against the other groups and against the state.  Just try crossing the road from Euston station on foot - it takes ages, mainly because the traffic system is designed to keep motorists going.  But motorists will then complain that pedestrians jump the lights anyway.  And cyclists... well, they'll complain about that too, when a driver isn't cutting them off, or they are not cycling counterflow - a neat idea which some people back, but while it remains illegal can be inconvenient - ask a pedestrian who nearly got run over because he or she wasn't looking that way, since it was a one way street!).

So, my message to Boris is this: cycle hire schemes are great, but you have to do better than that.  And where London goes, the rest of the UK may follow.

1 comment:

Mr Colostomy said...

I saw a few of the hire bikes in London a few weeks ago, whilst passing through. They were actually quite good looking, although I think they missed a trick my not contracting Pashley to make them, and not making them red. They could have become more of a London icon that way.

It is a shame that even in such a dense city as London, the vast majority of the infrastructure is designed around the pimps, bankers and drug dealers who insist on driving into the city centre. There is far too much focus on "easing congestion" by "improving traffic flow," which never works, merely increasing the volume of the congestion and reducing the ease of walking and cycling at the same time. The hire scheme could be part of making London more liveable, but only if coupled with infrastructure for cyclists, massive increases in congestion charges or making driving less convenient overall and enforcement of the laws designed to protect cyclists and pedestrians which motorists so regularly break. The same would be great to see here in Manchester too