On Friday evening, after attending a vigil for people on bikes who had been killed on London’s roads in the last two years, I saw two people on bikes come within a hair’s breadth of joining the list.
The two incidents happened within ten minutes of each other, on the laughably named Barclays Cycle Superhighway 7 and were frighteningly similar.
For those of you who have never cycled in London:
Barclays Cycle Superhighways are cycle routes running from outer London into central London.
They give you safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city and could be your best and quickest way to get to work.
Or so Transport for London would have you believe.
This description might lead you to believe that they had been designed by transport bods who knew something about designing safe cycle spaces. Spaces that reduce conflict between people on bikes, people on foot and people in motor vehicles by, oh, I don’t know, providing segregated cycling lanes. But no. In fact, what Barclays and TfL have done is find some of the busiest arterial routes in London, and paint in some blue cycle lanes at the edge of the road where all the guttering is. And then, worried that this is a step too far towards safeguarding people on bikes, they have overlaid the blue paint with red route parking and bus stops.
Cycling along the superhighways goes something like this:
- Enter cycle lane
- Move out into traffic to go around parked car.
- Rejoin cycle lane.
- Brake sharply to avoid a car turning left across cycle lane
- Move out into traffic to go around bus at bus stop.
- Rejoin cycle lane.
- Brake sharply to avoid a car pulling across cycle lane from side street.
- Repeat steps 2 to 7 until you arrive at your destination.
The two incidents I saw both involved cars turning left across the cycle lane without checking for approaching bikes. The first was a near miss. The person on the bike managed to brake swiftly enough to avoid being hit by the car, but was visibly shaken up. The second was knocked off his bike, but was up and talking almost immediately.
These were not malicious incidents. They happened because the design of the Barclays Cycle Superhighways is appalling.
Cycling in London should not just be for hardened athletes. It should be something that everyone feels able to do. Male or female; old or young; business or pleasure; professional cyclist or person on a bike. But to make that happen we need more than blue paint.
We need space for cycling.