#62: THE LONDON CYCLE NETWORK HAS NO WALLS. ‘Bicycles have no walls’, said Paul Cornish, the first US cross-country cycle record holder. The same, alas, can’t be said for Tube trains and tunnels. A few days ago, 773 poor souls were left waiting for three hours on a hot, sweaty Jubilee Line train which broke down between Baker Street and St John's Wood stations. In the end, the passengers had to be led through a tunnel, lit only by emergency lighting, for nearly a mile. One woman suffered a fit.
The most shocking thing about this story, in my opinion, is that so many people are so scared of cycling in the capital that they’re willing to run the gauntlet of the London Underground every day. To these people, getting stuck in a tunnel isn’t as scary as getting lost on a bike and ending up surrounded by buses, lorries and rabid van drivers. The reassurance of easy navigation and safe passage are enough to tip the balance in favour of the dismal Tube.
Clearly, we need make cycling just as reassuring if we want to make it as popular in London. We need to take the best bits of the Tube – it’s easy to fathom map and signs, and its lack of road traffic – and translate these things into cycling. The solution is a network of safe and relatively traffic-free cycle routes, mapped and signed by a Tube-style London Cycle Map.
We’ve already got the first of these things – the London Cycle Network, a sprawling web of 2000 kilometres of backstreet cycle routes connecting all areas of the capital. The London Cycle Network has no walls. Taking in some of London’s grandest and most beautiful streets, its routes couldn’t be further from those grotty tunnels.
But the London Cycle Network has one big barrier. It is sparsely signed and inadequately mapped, making navigating through its streets virtually impossible. Simon Parker’s London Cycle Map has shown how, with the right signs and road markings in place, the London Cycle Network could be navigated as easily as the Tube can – simply by remembering just a few coloured routes and where to change from one to the other.
If we’re looking to knock down barriers to cycling, this is where to start.