An earnest post about cycle lanes
Every time a cyclist gets killed or injured in a road accident in London, people raise the issue of the lack of safe cycle lanes in the city. Or rather, they don’t just raise it – it is indeed a shame that they don’t exist – but a significant minority demand that this be rectified for the safety of the 550,000 journeys made by bike every day in the capital.
The problem is, of course, that there’s nowhere to put them. Almost nowhere in central London is there room for cycle lanes that:
- are guaranteed to be free of other road users
- wouldn’t impact negatively on either pavement or road space
- are not crossed by side roads, driveways and other turnoffs
- are rideable at a decent speed over a decent length on a decent surface
The most nebulous of the above, and yet the most important to faster (ahem) riders like me, is number 4. By and large I don’t hold up traffic for more than a small part of my daily commute – I can regularly travel at ambient speed, and indeed I can often go faster than traffic, so in principle I fit *with* traffic, which means I can use the roads as best suit me with minimal inconvenience to big angry metal boxes.
However, if I were ghettoised into a cycle lane which suffered from points 3 or 4, I’d be constantly stopping and starting, just as at risk from motorists turning across me (more so, I suspect, since as soon as you cordon off cyclists they become “not my problem” to drivers), undulating over driveways, chicaning round road furniture, and dodging the inevitable debris that ends up at the side of the road.
Most riders aren’t trying to commute quickly, on silly racing bikes, so these issues are less of a problem for them. But truly safe bike lanes – the holy grail – would work for everyone. And London’s just too tightly packed.
If you think this is too negative or one-sided, or you have other suggestions, I’d welcome comments!