Friday, July 11, 2014

The worst thing about cycling in London is....?

Over the last week or so there have been a couple of articles published by the Guardian on "the worst thing about cycling..." The first claims that the worst thing is other cyclists - they're inconsiderate, jump red lights and generally give other cyclists a bad name. The second is a response to that piece pointing out that's nonsense and over-simplistic.

Obviously, as I've now been commuting by bike into central London for just over a year, I feel that I am completely qualified to give my own opinion on the absolute worst thing about cycling in London (or anywhere else for that matter).

I started a year ago on my trusty pink hybrid:

Then this year, for various reasons I've ended up with a road bike:

Anyway, I digress. Another reason I've been thinking about what the worst thing about cycling in London is because TfL earlier this week published plans for cycle superhighway 5 from Pimlico to Oval. It's been eagerly awaited and some bits of it are good but I think it falls down because it doesn't address the worst thing about cycling in London.

So what is it? Well, I think the worst thing about cycling in London is conflict. It's really as simple as that. The best bits of my 45-minute long journey into work can be in parks, on separate cycle paths or on the road and the reason they are the best bits is that they don't require me to come into conflict with other road or pavement users. The worst bits of the journey are those where, by poor design of the cycle infrastructure (or even perhaps the complete lack of infrastructure), I come into conflict with pedestrians on shared space, or with cars at badly designed junctions or on narrow roads with lots of parked cars.

The reason I was disappointed by the CS5 designs is because they don't address this. For example:

Lovely segregated track, ends with having to share the crossing with pedestrians. Instant conflict.

And what about conflict with cars? Well, here are a couple of junctions on CS8 where riders are forced to share space with cars:

Now, I don't know about you, but I don't think that's what's going to encourage people of all ages and abilities to get on their bikes. Interestingly that green track on the left of the second picture is NCN4, the cycle path there is off the road, when CS8, along the same route here, puts bikes on to the road. Sadly the NCN4 path just ends at the junction, and on the other side there's no segregation at all. Hopeless.

Still, we can always cycle in parks, right?


So there you have it. That's what I think is the worst thing about cycling in London. Conflict. Apart from that, it's great.


Tom W said...

To be honest, I avoid parks for the six months of the year that it's light in the evenings. Too many people on Clapham and Tooting commons who don't look before stepping onto the cycle track, dogs off leads, etc, etc. It's far more stressful than riding on the road, IMO.

Clare Griffiths said...

But again, it's because of the conflict of use, isn't it? Cars are also often more predictable than pedestrians... I still think full segregation on key routes is the way to go.

Camden Cycles said...

Nearly every one of us knows how to cycle and ride a bike, once they learn it even in their childhood, they will never forget it for the rest of their life.