Bike advocacy in the UK has been the perfect pastime for depressed optimists. A cycle of cresting waves of possibility constantly dashed against rocks of, meh, disinterest. A match made in a manic hell.
Right now, sat at this window on the virtual world, I’m just a click away from more cycleliciousness than you can shake a camera at. For the price of a ferry ticket I can nip across the North Sea and bike around in an actual, physical, real world, working model of the nearest thing there is to bicycle utopia on earth (btw the brilliant bike bridge in that video was designed by a british company).
And I have. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. It’s not just possible, it’s normal, in fact preferable, to go to work, school, shops, cafes, pubs, anywhere you like, by bike.
Of course when you get back to blighty you’ll find the same old surfeit of good words in policy documents, bigging up bike use, backed up by the same old risible budgets that’ll barely stretch to the white paint people will park on anyway. And so the wheel turns.
But is that finally about to change?
It’s Londoncentric. From our point of view in Witney it could be just a tsunami sized wave. One that’ll deposit us alongside the long suffering Coyote. At the foot of a colorado canyon. Staring up at a cartoon puff of smoke. Beep! Beep! Roadrunner gets the last laugh again.
But you know what they say about spots and leopards with mental health issues. So grab your boards dudes, we’re gonna catch that wave…
The image above is from the cover of the The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London released yesterday:
“Imagine if we could invent something that cut road and rail crowding, cut noise, cut pollution and ill-health – something that improved life for everyone, quite quickly, without the cost and disruption of new roads and railways. Well, we invented it 200 years ago: the bicycle… I want cycling to be normal, a part of everyday life. I want it to be something you feel comfortable doing in your ordinary clothes, something you hardly think about. I want more women cycling, more older people cycling, more black and minority ethnic Londoners cycling, more cyclists of all social backgrounds – without which truly mass participation can never come.”
That’s Boris for you – take your broadest brush and splash your brightest colours across the page. If I were being picky I’d have to say he’s overlooked the disabled, but that aside, it sounds absolutely fabulous. I’ll happily listen to that message being preached back at me by someone in a position to deliver it. Although, if he’d done it earlier instead of trying to stick all of his air quality eggs to the road perhaps having Defra before the Supreme Court of Justice yesterday could have been avoided. But hey-ho, back to the bicycles…
“My flagship route – a true Crossrail for the bicycle – will run for at least 15 miles, very substantially segregated, from the western suburbs, through the heart of the Capital, to the City, Canary Wharf and Barking in the east. It will, we believe, be the longest substantially-segregated continuous cycle route of any city in Europe. It will use a new segregated cycle track along, among other places, the Victoria Embankment and the Westway flyover. The Westway, the ultimate symbol of how the urban motorway tore up our cities, will become the ultimate symbol of how we are claiming central London for the bike.”
The section along the Victoria Embankment is what’s represented in the cover image, and I can actually imagine my mum riding along it, or a family with kids, without having to wait for that one day of the year when the Sky Ride takes place. In fact, the Sky Ride doesn’t use this particular part of the embankment anyway. Here’s what it looks like now with only a painted cycle lane on the eastbound side.
Far from inviting is it – a drag strip with a bus park along the side – making the Mayor’s ‘Crossrail for the bicycle’ a step change and a huge improvement. And the use of graphics to show what’s intended makes it very easy to say that. Surprising that we don’t see more of it really, would make the Local Transport Plan a lot more interesting. But that’s not the only thing that’s different about this document…
“I will more than double London’s cycling budget – to a total of almost £400m over the next three years, two-and-a-half times more than previously planned. In 2015, we will be spending £145m a year on cycling, or roughly £18 a head, up with the best in Germany and almost on a par with the Netherlands.
Over the next 10 years, cycle spending will total £913m, more than treble the previously-planned levels.”
Money. On a scale that’s way above anything we’ve seen before in the UK. Some are still questioning whether it’s enough, but compare that to Bike Safe’s investigation into the transport budget for bikes in Oxfordshire. My back-of-an-envelope calculation reckons it to be about 50p per head per year, most of which is spent in Oxford City. Like I said, a risible budget that hasn’t a hope in hell of tackling obesity, congestion or pollution.
If Boris actually delivers what he’s promising for London, a guy seen as the clown of politics, what could the ringmaster do for us? Why don’t we ask him? Write to your MP and ask him why Oxfordshire County Council isn’t creating a cycle network in his Witney constituency like what Boris is doing for London. Let’s see how far we can ride this wave.
Let us know what he says, be it Looney Tune or Merrie Melodie (I’ll be at 3m42s)…