Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #57. A town within a metropolis.

#57: A TOWN WITHIN A METROPOLIS. In the developed world, I don’t know of a single metropolis – i.e. a huge, sprawling urban space – where cycling is as popular as it is in smaller towns (or town-like cities) such as Amsterdam, Munich, Copenhagen, Cambridge or Oxford.

Just as bigger ponds contain bigger fish, the biggest cities in the developed world contain the biggest vehicles in the greatest numbers. When a city sprawls (and is sufficiently wealthy) it develops ever-larger transport arteries that heave with enormous but efficient vehicles – trucks, buses, vans, and so on.

The problem with this inevitable progression is that the traffic on those large roads forms a barrier to cycling – as if hoards of angry bears were lying in wait just around the next corner for the unprepared cyclist. Apart from a few die-hards, no-one wants to ride alongside the monsters of the road.

In smaller towns (or town-like cities) there are fewer or none of these behemoth roads. In Cambridge, for instance, I can’t think of a single street I wouldn’t be happy to cycle on, and most people there would agree. No-one decides against a cycle journey in Cambridge on the basis that they might get lost and end up straying onto a scary main road. The worst that can happen is that you get lost, cruise around for a bit, maybe ask a stranger, and then get back on track. No angry bears in sight.

A London Cycle Map would create the equivalent of a town, such as Cambridge, within London. It would delineate a pleasant area where as a cyclist you are unlikely to encounter any terrifyingly massive vehicles. Of course, you could still cycle off the London Cycle Map routes if you wanted – and perhaps into the path of some bears – but as long as you stick to those routes you’ll remain in a town-like cycling environment.

A properly signed and mapped London Cycle Network would be so comprehensive you could get to virtually anywhere on these safer, quieter routes. And when you reach the closest point to your destination you could even park your bike and walk the rest of the way, as if you were walking from a Tube station to your final destination.

Let’s create in London some corner that’s forever cycling; a mini-ecosystem for bikes; a town within a metropolis.


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