CREATING THE POLITICAL WILL FOR CYCLE DEVELOPMENT. #21. A London Cycle Map would do wonders for solving the twin problems of navigation and safety that are currently putting off most would-be cyclists in the capital.
By marking and signing the roads of the London Cycle Network with the long straight routes shown on Parker’s map, the authorities could enable cyclists to get from anywhere to anywhere in London, safely and simply, by following just a few coloured routes, like on the Tube.
The London Cycle Network is big enough to accommodate tens of millions of cycle journeys each day. Nevertheless, once millions of cyclists start using the network, they would soon spread out onto the surrounding streets and beyond. Confidence begets confidence: by giving would-be cyclists a safe-haven in which they can hone their skills, the London Cycle Map would help to cyclise the whole capital.
Most importantly, this would have the effect of rousing the political will to deliver further cycle development in London. By giving the masses a taste of cycling on the well-provisioned London Cycle Network, we would whet their appetites for more cycle development, both on the network and elsewhere.
In the long run, the ideal scenario would be to create a capital city where as many streets as possible are good for cycling. Of course, even in the ideal scenario, the London Cycle Map would remain useful: it would be the perfect way to introduce newcomers to cycling. Its role would mirror that of the bicycle itself during and after the rapid industrialisation which occurred at the end of 19th century – when the bicycle went from being a widespread transport necessity, one which catalysed progress, to an optional utility.
Compare this ‘catalysing’ kind of cycle development to the London Cycling Campaign’s recent call for cyclists to identify, on an interactive map, ‘areas of London that would benefit from being given a street design that's more cycling and people-friendly’. Obviously all this data-inputting will make LCC members feel empowered (‘feel’ being the crucial word) and will doubtless throw up countless areas for improvement, but, sadly, very little will come of the project, for a simple reason:
The car drivers, van drivers, cab drivers and truck drivers – the very same people whose presence makes many of London’s roads and junctions so dangerous for cyclists – are a much more influential political lobby than the LCC.
Here’s my prediction: by the time all the data has been gathered on the LCC’s map, the number of areas in need of improvement which actually get improved in this mayoral term will correspond closely to the proportion of journeys in London currently undertaken by bike: 2 per cent.
In effect, all that data inputting and campaigning will have been a waste of time. The authorities already know what a cycling-prohibitive junction looks like, and, in the end, the public will get what the public wants: 2% of roads and junctions improved for cycling (or perhaps 100% of road and junctions improved by 2% for cycling). At that rate, it will take fifty mayoral terms – 200 years – to make London cycle-friendly. (If this seems excessively pessimistic, consider the fact that the LCC has succeeded in committing Boris Johnson to just three flagship ‘Go Dutch’ cycle developments during his mayoralty.)
This is why the London Cycle Map is so important. It is the only proposal for cycle development in the capital which stands any chance of persuading millions of people to cycle in the short term. It is the only proposal which directly addresses the fears which are currently putting off would-be cyclists: navigation and safety.
It is, indeed, the only proposal which has any chance of creating the political will to develop all the areas for improvement identified by the LCC’s members.