Peter’s Perspective- August

Our columnist still thinks there’s some work to be done before London cycling is the joy it deserves to be.

In 2011 I put a video on YouTube entitled ‘A city unfit for cycling’ which showed the junction with Clerkenwell Road and Grays Inn Road at 5.30 on a July afternoon. Cyclists riding down to Farringdon face a confused melee of vehicles – cars turning left into Rosebery Avenue, taxis stopping, Post Office vans racing to Mount Pleasant and fleets of buses that fill all the available road. It is one of the scariest junctions in London and there has long been calls for it to be improved. Seven years later it looks much the same – which is a scandal.

Even in 2013 TfL’s census showed that bicycles represented some 64 per cent of vehicles on Theobalds Road at rush hour, and the figures are likely to be way higher today. The riders who use Clerkenwell Road and Old Street on a daily basis are nothing short of heroic, risking life and limb as brave heralds of a better way of organising our city. Why is it taking so long to provide proper infrastructure for the sorts of policies that the Mayor is promoting in his transport strategy?

The new Super Highway on Farringdon Road is now operational and that’s a good thing but where are the local routes that Camden and Islington should be delivering? Why aren’t they reducing congestion and dangerous traffic by pushing for small local deliveries to be by cargo bikes and not by all-but-empty white vans? Why are politicians so frightened of car drivers – the dinosaurs of urban living?

In a note to my video I referred viewers to a film of commuters in Copenhagen – relaxed, safe and protected from traffic. Other parts  of London are showing what can be done – Walthamstow, Hackney, Kingston – with so many cyclists in Clerkenwell, it’s about time that we got the cycling infrastructure we deserve.

Peter Murray is Chairman of NLA: London’s Centre for the Built Environment