Wednesday 26th October 2016                 Change text size:

Get on your bike

Get on your bike

The London Cycle Campaign implores the Mayor of London to “Go Dutch“. Rob Steadman asks whether improved conditions for cyclists could benefit the UK’s city centres.

In the Netherlands nearly a quarter of all journeys are taken by bicycle. In a culture that has taken decades to establish, bikes are now a common part of everyday life across the country, with strict laws surrounding the usage and etiquette involved in cycling in urban areas.

The benefits of cycling as a means of transport are obvious; it’s cheap, it’s healthier, they cause fewer deaths and injuries, create less noise pollution, they do not pollute the air and do not contribute to carbon emissions.

Here in the UK, inner city transport policies have historically been biased towards motorists. Now, arguably, there is an air of antagonism between some cyclists and motorists on UK roads.

There have been increasing numbers of reports regarding the war between modes of transport. In July 2011, several publications reported on how 49-year-old cyclist, Simon Page, was punched to the ground by a frustrated motorist trying to overtake him, in south-east London.

The incident was caught on camera and uploaded to YouTube and a viral campaign to track the assailant ensued. Before too long 29-year-old John Nicholls was arrested and charged with assault. Many cyclists now wear headcams to safeguard themselves from the abuse they often receive.      

London’s roads are fairly hellish, intense volumes of traffic make it a very stressful place to drive, let alone cycle. The Netherlands, however, is a different story. Their cycling policies are strict with segregated lanes and zones laid out by officials. It is also down to the stringent traffic laws and calming methods that make the ‘bike culture’ dominant.

A feeling of respect is felt for cyclists. The origins of this culture spring from an activist group from the 1970s called Stop De Kindermoord (Stop the Child Murder). They campaigned to improve the cycle infrastructure and make the government aware of how many children were being killed on Dutch roads each year.

Now the Netherlands – along with Sweden and the UK – have the world’s lowest number of road fatalities a year, according to a recent report by the International Traffic, Safety and Data Analysis Group.  

In the lead up to the London 2012 Mayoral elections, London Cycling Campaign (LCC), a group calling for improved conditions for cyclists in London, have recently decided that their biggest campaign to put forth to the Mayor of London is to “Go Dutch”. By this they mean establish clearer, more acknowledged space for cyclists where they can “feel safe, enjoy clear and hassle-free passage, in harmony with pedestrians and public transport”.

Mike Cavenett of the LCC said, “We hope our campaign will galvanise popular support in Greater London to persuade mayoral candidates to make our main roads safe, enjoyable and convenient so people of all abilities have the choice to travel by bike.

The Dutch approach to streets involves giving people on bikes equality, priority and continuity. The best case scenario would involve a winning mayoral candidate accepting that Dutch-style streets are the best route towards a healthier, happier and cleaner city.”

The LCC also stated, “The everyday journeys many Londoners would like to make by bike need to be continuous, unobstructed, and built into a network that makes cycling an easy choice from A to B – as it is in the Netherlands”.  

If successful the campaign could encourage more people to use bicycles, which could be of huge importance to carbon emissions in London.

According to Transport for London’s (TFL) fifth annual monitoring report, carbon emissions have been reduced by 22% since the implementation of the congestion charge back in 2003, which saw “increased use of bicycles”. Further reductions in vehicle usage could push that figure higher. 

Picture source: redjar

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