Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #72: As big a priority as local permeability.

#72. AS BIG A PRIORITY AS LOCAL PERMEABILITY. ‘Permeability’ in cycling is a technical term meaning the number of connections that can be made on a bicycle between streets, parks, canals and other cycleways. Think of it as being like holes in a sieve. If there are only a few holes then it takes longer for the water to get through. Likewise, the fewer connections there are, the longer it takes for cyclists to get through the capital.

Things which reduce permeability for cyclists are traffic systems like dual carriageways and gyratories (where the volume and distribution of motor vehicles makes it much more risky to be on two wheels) or physical blockages like railways lines.

Permeability is undoubtedly important at a local level, but London needs a global (so-called ‘strategic’) network as well. This is because it’s much harder to cycle from one borough to another than it is to cycle within your own borough, and this is what is preventing London from being a cycling city, as opposed to a series of cycling localities.

Smaller towns don’t face this problem, so increasing their permeability correlates strongly with increasing cycling. But things are different in a metropolis like London, where people’s social, leisure and work activities are typically spread across a relatively large area. Until people can routinely and spontaneously cycle from one part of the capital to another, its predominant modes of transportation will reflect the ease with which this can be done by other means.

Of course, more and more people are discovering that cycling is worth the extra investment in preparation and navigation. But the fact is, if you want to encourage people to make positive lifestyle and environmental changes then you have to make it easy for them. A London Cycle Map would make it so much easier to cycle throughout the capital.


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