Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #18. Habitat corridors for cyclists.

#18. HABITAT CORRIDORS FOR CYCLISTS. Country roads, tow-paths, parks, and the streets of Copenhagen; some habitats are perfect for cycling. Others are less so - and, alas, that includes London’s busiest streets, which heave with traffic, pollution and aggression.

Unfortunately, such inhospitable habitats put off most would-be cyclists, and prevent a mass cycling migration from occurring daily in London.

A similar problem can affect the migratory behaviour of animal species, which need to move among a range of natural environments – e.g. wetlands, pastures, burrowing sites, breeding grounds, prey habitats – to flourish. Urbanisation creates blockages which restrict or prevent animal migration.

Conservationists often address this problem by creating ‘habitat corridors’ – strips of ecologically suitable land which criss-cross urbanized areas and provide a passage for migrating species from one environment to another.

Something similar is needed for cyclists in London. Whereas we can’t realistically hope to make all cycling blockages such as major roads and junctions cycle-friendly (despite what the LCC’s Go Dutch campaign is claiming), we can provide corridors of safe cycling which criss-cross the capital.

Sustrans have taken this lesson literally and signed a bunch of Greenways, that is, cycling corridors made out of strips of non-urban land in London. The problem is, there aren’t enough already existing green strips to make a comprehensive network of cycling corridors in London.

TfL, in contrast, have rather missed the point of a habitat corridor for cycling. Through the Cycle Superhighways scheme, they have daubed miles of blue paint along major roads in London. Yet would-be cyclists are still understandably scared of those roads. TfL’s policy is equivalent to painting green lines through a city centre and expecting a neat procession of terrified animals to migrate along it.

If we can’t make a network of urban cycling corridors out of greenways or highways, how else can we?

The answer is staring us in the face: The London Cycle Network, or ‘LCN’, which has been developed over the last thirty years, at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds. There are around 2000 kilometres of cycle routes on the LCN. These routes mostly involve safer, quieter streets, provisioned with cycle lanes and other useful cycling infrastructure improvements.

The only problem with the LCN is that it is made up of an extremely complex tangle of routes that lacks a decent map and signage, and so is more or less impossible to navigate.

Simon Parker’s London Cycle Map has offered a solution to these problems. He has imagined the LCN as a series of long straight, coloured routes which dissect the whole capital comprehensively, from every one of its regions to every other. By providing road markings and signs corresponding to these routes, we could enable cyclists to get from anywhere to anywhere in London by following a coloured trail, like on the Tube.

In doing so, we would provide a vast and wonderful network of habitat corridors for cycling in London. Wherever cyclists wanted to go, they could get there safely on the routes of the LCN, insulated mostly from the main roads and terrifying junctions which for so long have blocked off would-be cyclists.

Don’t believe the hype: with just 2% of journeys in the capital undertaken by bicycle, cyclists are an endangered species here. Let’s help them flourish, on the corridors of a London Cycle Map.


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