A recent article in The Guardian prompted me to post a comment in disagreement... which then prompted me to use that comment to start a new feature on this blog, highlighting examples of cycling campaigners whose ideas are ideological, ill-thought-out or otherwise unhelpful to the cycling cause...
Here's the article. Here's my comment:
There are thousands of kilometres of safe cycle routes in London. These routes comprise the London Cycle Network (LCN), which has been developed over the last 30 years. Many LCN routes are on quieter backstreets, lacking the buses and trucks and fast moving motor vehicles found on the main roads.
The LCN is underused because no-one knows where its routes are or where those routes lead to. What is needed is a London Cycle Map and system of signage to make the LCN accessible to all.
Often you hear people say that the backstreet routes of the LCN are too slow. This is nonsense: the streets comprising those routes are comparable in size to the streets of Cambridge, where more people cycle than in any other city in Britain. In any case, segregated cycling facilities on main roads in London would create routes no faster than the backstreet routes which already exist there: the act of creating a smaller space dedicated to cycling would slow down the cyclists currently using the main roads.
Obviously, the major problem with the idea of campaigning for cycle facilities on main roads (as a rule, as opposed to an option) is that it is ideological, confrontational and never going to succeed. There are too many main roads in London for the policy to succeed in creating safe, continuous routes, the likes of which are needed to inspire new cyclists. And, of course, anyone who is not a hypocrite (i.e. an anti-capitalist with a nicely stocked fridge) knows that a city of 10 million people will always need motorized transport.
The article states that "cyclists are forced to share the streets with fast-moving heavy motor traffic". This is obviously false: there are plenty of other streets cyclists could cycle on in London, for instance on the LCN. Without a decent map and system of signage for the LCN, cyclists certainly END UP being tempted to use the main roads, for ease of navigation. But this is not the same as being forced.
It is tempting for me to misuse the word 'force' and declare that the LCC's obsession with main roads is 'forcing' cyclists onto main roads. This would be inaccurate, needless to say. But by overlooking the network of thousands of safer cycle routes that already exist in London, in favour of an ideologically driven confrontation with capitalism, the LCC is not, in actual fact, doing as much as it could to keep cyclists out of harm's way.