Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Boris encourages cycling by closing cycle facilities

The first step to acknowledge you've got a problem, so here goes: my name's Primly and I'm a cyclist. There, I admitted it. Four years of daily back-and-forth across London, plus some nice long trips every now and then. And before you say anything, I don't jump red lights, or ride on the pavement, or go the wrong-way down one-way streets.

While pedalling home last night I was making use of the off-road cycle path that runs along the north side of the Mall. Or at least I was, until I reached the point halfway along where it crosses the junction with Marlborough Road, complete with bicycle-specific traffic lights and everything. Usually the path carries on down the other side, allowing you to avoid the Mall, the Buckingham Palace roundabout and the thundering traffic of Constitution Hill, instead taking you around the junction and up a cycle path through Green Park to Hyde Park Corner.

Except yesterday, without warning, the cycle path was closed after Marlborough Road. Sealed off. Big trucks parked up, man in high-viz jacket barring the way. So I had to pull out onto the Mall again (not easy in rush hour), negotiate the multi-lane junction outside Buck House (lots of tooting from cabbies) and then dodge the traffic to try and get back into the cycle path system before being spat out onto Hyde Park Corner. Not easy.

But why, I hear you ask, was this handy (and well-used) little route abruptly closed to cycle traffic? So that the set-up can begin for this weekend's "Mayor of London's Sky Ride", in which certain streets in central London are closed to traffic and thrown open to cyclists. Just so long as those cyclists have registered and are wearing a high-viz advert for Sky TV, obviously.

I have mixed feelings about the Sky Ride concept. It's always good to see more people on bikes, and this event encourage whole families to get cycling, which can only be a good thing. But it also encourages the entirely false notion that cycling in London in only safe and enjoyable if the roads are closed to cars and the cyclists need to be kept away from motorised traffic at all costs rather than treated like road users.

But whatever the rights and wrongs of the event, surely it doesn't take a genius (or even a Boris) to figure out that closing a busy cycle route is not the best way to encourage cycling?

1 comment:

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