I’m a London cyclist. I spent years cycling as a commuter from Muswell Hill to the City, then Mayfair when I changed job. Now I’m based in Ealing and I still use my bike to head into central London, though less often than I used to because I no longer have a job that needs me in the same place everyday. I still use my cycle to get around west London though.
I was having a conversation with a friend yesterday and she thought it was funny – “you on a bike?” I’ve turned up to the House of Lords for a meeting in riding gear once, much to the displeasure of the suited peers, until someone mentioned how incredible it is that someone is cycling to a meeting, at which point everyone started talking about the environment… and in 2008 I jumped on my bike in Ealing one day and cycled to Manchester, just because it was summer and I had a couple of days to spare.
But I started cycling regularly for a number of reasons. It’s faster than public transport in London, it’s fun, it’s free (sure, you need to maintain your bike, but it’s relatively free), and it’s fitness that you can get without needing to block out gym time… it’s exercise on the way home from work or on the way to a meeting so it’s a lot easier to find the time.
The biggest fear people have of cycling in London is safety. Even those of us with a lot of city cycling experience can end up under the wheels of a lorry, just because the driver is not paying attention – three cyclists have died this way in London so far this year.
The London Cycling Campaign is endlessly working to improve safety, and has had some recent practical success like ensuring that the 3,000 truck drivers working on the Crossrail project will all be safety-trained to be aware of cyclists. But’s it not enough. One visit to a city like Amsterdam shows that the general public can and will use cycles to get around a city for short journeys – if they feel safe. The LCC is calling for:
– Compulsory cyclist-awareness training for lorry-drivers
– Banning lorries from cycle routes or during rush hour
– Better-designed lorries for the urban environment, including mirrors
– Stricter enforcement of current speeding and road laws