After 12 years, three bikes, five crashes, two sprained limbs and one emergency operation, I have decided that 2015 is the year I give up commuting by bicycle.
Why now? Well, there are a few reasons. For one, my work patterns have changed; I do go to more early meetings, late meetings and meetings that just aren’t right for turning up looking a bit dishevelled. And I am a bit older - I have to accept that I’m not as quick healing from those bumps and bangs as I used to be.
But mostly, I’ve recognised the simple truth - it’s just too dangerous.
Which is sad, as in the main I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed the freedom from the vagaries of public transport (and in London, there are plenty of those).
I’ve enjoyed the daily workout I got from the 40km round trip. And I’ve definitely enjoyed the saving on rail fares.
But I’ve concluded it’s just not worth the risk. And contrary to popular belief that risk does not come in the form of cars, vans, lorries or buses, all manically trying to knock off the innocent cyclist No, that risk comes from other cyclists. There are now just too many of them, and there is simply not enough space.
And now we have the confirmation this week that London mayor Boris Johnson is spending multiple millions of pounds on a raft of segregated cycle “super highways”. And I’m sorry, but these are only going to make things worse.
I’ve made clear my views on segregation in this column before and I stand by them. It is a terrible, terrible mistake.
And this is not just me saying this. Other transportation professionals I have spoken with concur.
Johnson should be applauded for his determination to make cycling safer. But the feeling is he is being badly advised. I say that because he actually solved the problem last year when, under his instruction, police officers were dispatched to supervise behaviours at key accident black spots across the capital.
The impact was immediate. Accidents ceased.
OK, it still didn’t solve the problem of the massive shortage of road capacity in our space-constrained capital city, but lane segregation won’t either. That’s actually going to reduce the space available even more.
And what it is going to do in the process is make cyclists complacent about the hazards of cycling in the capital, making them all the more vulnerable when they eventually emerge from the protection of their segregated lanes - which will invariably be where the space is just too tight for segregation and actually the risk of conflict with cars is at its greatest.
I say again, it is a terrible mistake.
Making cycling safer is simple. You enforce the Highway Code - on all road users.
The way we are going is a terrible mistake. It’s dangerous. And that, frankly, is a danger I’ve decided I can do without.
- Mark Hansford is NCE’s editor