The Cycling Revolution

Cycling in Copenhagen (Picture credit - by Mikael Colville-Andersen

There’s a good article today in The Grauniad about whether the law treats cycling deaths seriously enough.  I have some ideas about how cycling in London could be made much, much safer. Some of them are very simple, some of them are arguable.

I believe that if these ideas were introduced, it would have a dramatic effect on the disproportionate number of cycling deaths that have occurred in London over the past 3 to 4 years. Too often the debate seems to get bogged down in arguing over cycle lanes, whether cyclists should wear helmets and the usual “red lights/cycling on pavements” issue. Of course, all these issues are worthy of discussion but if Boris really wants to do something positive for cycling in London, he could do a lot worse than introduce these five new policies.

1) A 20mph speed limit throughout Greater London

Not popular with motorists but essential. Because the speed limit is 30mph, many motorists do 40mph or more.  Setting it at 20mph would make the roads much safer for everybody. Got children? You should support this, even if you don’t cycle.

2) Police to follow up more incidents of aggression against cyclists

We often hear about how terrible cyclists are, jumping red lights and riding on the pavement.  But as anyone who has ever cycled in London knows, the boot is on the other foot. I have personally been spat at, had stuff shouted at me to try to scare me, had things thrown at me and been driven into in a cycle lane by a taxi driver – to name just a few incidents.  I know from talking to other cyclists that my experience is not alone and worse has happened to others. I consider myself lucky! The police need to prosecute people who do this which I believe they do rarely currently. You wouldn’t walk up to someone in the street and do these things, so why is it acceptable to do it to a cyclist? To state the obvious, it’s also incredibly dangerous, which leads me on to my next point.

3) Police cyclists to ride around London in plain clothes

I do not believe they currently do this but would be happy to be proven wrong. Have you ever seen the way motorists treat police cyclists when they see a copper on a bike? They see the uniform and think “better not give him any hassle”. It’s like a red carpet laid out for them as motorists give way and wave to the copper. I’ve actually laughed out loud when I’ve seen it happen.

If police went out in plain clothes, motorists wouldn’t have a clue who they were. Inevitably, they would observe dangerous driving and suffer abuse. They would book drivers every minute of every day.  However, my suggestion is not meant to be a mean trick towards motorists. The Met should announce that they are going to do this in the media. Any motorist who then decided to drive aggressively, well, that’s up to them. Hopefully, the policy would have a deterrent effect on motorists who think it’s a “good laugh” to try to knock cyclists off. White van man take note….

4) Put the congestion charge up to £100 a day

I am constantly amazed as to why anyone feels they need to drive in London. But for some people, there’s no convincing them. Hopefully this would.  The current £8 limit doesn’t really make much sense. If two people need to get into central London together, it’s cheaper for them to drive than go by tube.

But before you think I’m either very mean or two stops beyond Upton Park, I would also introduce free vouchers, say 14 a year, where drivers could drive for free on any day they choose. So when you really need to use your car and get across central London, you’d be able to.

5) Introduce the Strict Liability rule

There’s an excellent explanation here. Few could argue with it.

Well, that’s 5 ideas to start with and no policy advisor has been paid a huge consultancy fee in the writing of this article. Feel free to comment or add your own ideas.


5 responses to “The Cycling Revolution

  1. I think some of your ideas are a little silly to be honest. My personal favourite is to simply change the law so that any accident involving a car and a cyclist is always 100% the car’s fault. No matter what. Similarly any accident between a cyclist and a pedestrian is automatically the cyclist’s fault.

  2. err, isn’t that what I suggested in my 5th idea? :-s

  3. Some good points. But try cycling in Glasgow. It makes London seem v tame..

  4. I know Fi. I was particularly shocked when you told me that people had spat at you on more than 1 occasion.

  5. Pingback: Irresponsible motorists: Chapter 74 | a short introduction to cycling

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