I once exasperatedly described understanding Parker’s proposal as an ‘unofficial IQ test’, but there’s some truth in this rather pompous assertion. Although his London Cycle Map would be wonderfully simple to use – enabling cyclists to get from anywhere to anywhere in the capital on the safer, quieter streets of the London Cycle Network, by following just a few coloured routes – the idea behind this result is extremely clever.
To understand it, you have to realise that
(i) Parker’s system of parallel coloured routes renders the map of the London Cycle Network (see image on left) as simple as it can be (no other alternative, including node-based systems, would be as effective);
(ii) with corresponding signs and markings on the streets, all areas of the capital – any two areas – would be connected by a single, direct, safe cycle route;
(iii) this network would solve the problems of safety and navigation immediately: new cyclists would never need to be worried about getting lost on a bike and stumbling onto the most dangerous roads;
(iv) in contrast, a policy of incremental cycle route development on main roads will never solve the latter problems;
(v) in a metropolis such as London the longer distances involved in travelling will necessitate a level of motor congestion higher than in smaller cities, so in order for cyclists to avoid the worst of that traffic, a Tube-style network of backstreet cycle routes is needed;
(vi) the routes on a London Cycle Map would not be mandatory but merely optional - albeit especially useful to beginners - meaning that regular cyclists could still cycle wherever they wanted to: indeed, by persuading some car users to swap to bikes, the London Cycle Map would make life easier for cyclists who prefer to use major roads.
(vii) to use the London Cycle Map, which is stylised like the Tube map, a supporting map would be needed that shows where the routes are in reality – showing, in other words, how to get on and off the network at the points nearest to your start location and destination, respectively.
Understanding these points is not easy - yet using a London Cycle Map would be! If you can get your head around how ingenious Parker’s proposal is, then please help us get the message across. Maybe we’re not putting it right – so show us how it’s done!
Betrand Russell once wrote that 'the whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so sure of themselves but wiser men so full of doubts'. In this time of sensationalism, fear, ignorance and ideology, intelligent ideas like Parker's London Cycle Map are all the more valuable.