PUBLISHED: 12:30 06 September 2018
Whenever people ask what legacy the Olympics bought to London, I think back to July 2012 when the Euston Road had a so-called “Zil lane” in it. As people who cycled were among the only non-official vehicles allowed to use the lanes, I started riding to work.
This was after not riding a bike for about a decade. I had a car and used the Tube. Before, I had always ridden to school and occasionally on weekends. For me, riding to work became a refreshing way of actually observing the city, noticing the seasons change and getting some exercise.
So why write this?
In 2014, I had an epiphany. I was riding in the Euston Road and, moving out to avoid a parked car, I was hit right outside UCH. The result was a smash fracture in my right hand and nearly three months of not riding outside. Convinced that there had to be a better route into town, I had got talking to the Camden branch of the London Cycling Campaign (LCC).
I was lucky – Camden has always been a borough where cycling has generally been promoted and I found other quieter routes, such as Tavistock Place.
Yet what strikes me is that despite a 36 per cent increase in the number of daily cycle stages risen (TfL Data from 2012 to the end of 2016), it is still so slow to build new cycling infrastructure. After all, we would notice if the number of segregated cycle paths rose by 36pc.
Given clear demand, concerns about pollution and obesity, London needs to encourage people to cycle. The best way for people of all ages and all abilities to do it is investment in segregated infrastructure.
This needs to be coordinated with all 32 boroughs so that if I ride from work via Tavistock Place, I’m not thrown into a non-segregated New Cavendish Street in Westminster from the segregated path in Howland Street in Camden.
So I’ve taken great interest in the proposals for CS11, wearing a dual hat as a commuter through Regent’s Park and one of those cyclists who gets up at 4am to ride laps around the outer circle in summer.
The whole process has highlighted the dysfunctionality of planning, such that two years after a consultation answered by 6,000 people with 60pc in favour, we still have no superhighway.
Checks and balances are very necessary in a democracy; a consultation when used well can result in a better project.
Yet I must question as to whether consultations are being used as a referendum for a vocal minority to block progress, increasing the risk both to those already cycling and putting off people who may want to ride but don’t because such projects are not built.
This is why I keep renewing my membership of the LCC.
What the CS11 process has taught me is that we need to keep lobbying those in power to build safe routes and also help in the planning process. If you want safer cycle routes, I suggest you do too.
• The Camden Cycling Campaign (Camden branch of LCC) has public meetings on the third Monday of each month. Details can be found on the website: camdencyclists.org.uk.