With two days left in May and barely three weeks to the summer solstice, blazing sunshine has finally arrived in the capital - and with it the predictable plethora of “fair weather cyclists”. Should we be encouraging this hapless freewheeling amateurs?
After all, this is the week when London Mayor Boris Johnson, in the midst of a grandstanding launch of his new cycling campaign, almost got mown down by a truck. I’ve attached a link to the clip if you don’t believe me - really you couldn’t make it up.
But Boris’ near-miss sums up everything about cycling in the capital - and as someone who has commuted 14 miles by bike, each way, for best part of five years I feel a little entitled to an opinion.
Truth is, cycling in London is not dangerous. It’s cheaper than London Transport, It’s quicker than London Transport (even over 14 miles!), it’s healthier and, as the Tube starts to heat up, infinitely more pleasant. You don’t even get wet that often - there’s even some stat that it only rains in the capital, in commuting hours, four times a year.
But you do have to be fit, and you do have to be competent - and that’s where Boris, and all these initiatives always fall down. By focusing on kids and the occasional dodderer, you get bonkers cycle lanes that take you on pavements, off pavements, round bollards, through gutters and generally spit you out into the middle of a busy roundabout.
No, what cyclists want is what motorists want - well surfaced roads, and respect from other road users. And these are the things that Boris - and his TfL bureaucrats - should be investing in. Money for road surfacing, and training for the ignorant, incompetent, TfL-employed bus drivers that give cyclists not respect and ram them into barriers at any opportunity.
But until we get this, it is frankly dangerous, and bordering on reckless, to be encouraging these willing amatuers onto the road.
NCE boasts a remarkably pro-cycling office: Ed, Jessica, John, Alex, James and Andy - all cycle come rain, wind or shine (mainly anyway). Only three of our team don’t. And frankly, they shouldn’t - because they’d kill themselves - or get killed, by the same sort of truck - or bus - that nearly took out Boris.
The latest TfL estimates – based on automated monitoring of 40 major roads – indicate a continuing rise in the number of bike journeys made in London over the past eight years. But these increases are despite road conditions for cyclists not because of them, and TfL needs to learn - fast - that over-sold sops do little to challenge the oppressive and dangerous dominance of the HGV and bus.