Every few months or so they send me their 'London Cyclist' magazine and I spend a happy half hour or so reading up on their latest bike parking, lethal lorries, cycling budget or bike theft campaigns. The most recent issue has a happy four pages dedicated to various varieties of bike parking systems (who knew there were so many?!) as well as a whole page of reviews of different brands of tyres... all exciting stuff, of course, but it was a letter from a member that really caught my eye this month so I thought I'd share it with you all here:
Your last issue (Aug-Sept 2010) once again features a continental city where cycling is much safer than London - this time Copenhagen. And as with the other cities, the prime reason for that safety is segregation of bikes and motor traffic. Ritte Bjerregaard (former Mayor) says: "Copenhagen could never have become a successful cycling city if we hadn't created such a distinct divide between bike lanes and cars."
I have wondered for a long time why the LCC says so little about segregation of bikes and cars. If the cities held up to us as examples stress it, why do we downplay it? The argument that London streets are too narrow doesn't wash. Some are, but many aren't. Separated bike lanes are not even mentioned in the LCC's election manifesto - unless they come under the eighth and last point as 'reallocation of road space'.
In the same issue, LCC campaigns officer Charlie Lloyd says that the "number one reason non-cyclists give for not using a bicycle is that they don't feel safe." I would think that there's nothing safer for cyclists than segregated cycling routes. But where does LCC stand on this?
Bill Saltmarsh, SE27
The LCC responds:
When speeds and volumes of vehicles are high, LCC says separate bicycles and cars. However, removing through traffic from residential areas and reducing speed limits can also work towards creating a cycle-friendly city.
So I thought I'd apply a little litmus test to the London Cycling Campaign's words... do LCC really push to separate bicycles and cars when speeds and volumes of traffic are high? Do they really speak up for segregated infrastructure? Flicking through the last 4 issues of their 'London Cyclist' magazine you wouldn't think so. There have been...
3 features on bike theft,
2 on cycle parking,
2 on the cycle hire scheme,
2 on HGV safety as well as features on the Skyrides,
the Tweed Run,
the general election,
a road danger map
...and one interview with the former Mayor of Copenhagen in which she clearly states that segregation is key to cycling numbers and subjective as well as physical safety. The benefits and potential for Dutch-style cycling infrastructure here in London barely get a mention. Hmmm...
I know a number of the people who work at the London Cycling Campaign and I know that they are extremely passionate about cycling, and indeed very knowledgeable on the ins and outs of how to deal with local planning authorities etc etc. That is not in question here, and neither is the campaign's commitment to cycling. I also understand how, with a wide membership base with differing views of the best approach to growing cycling they have to appeal to all. But I would like to see a little honesty around the issue of segregated infrastructure. If the campaign think cycle lanes are rubbish, that's okay, I'm happy to cancel my membership, but if they do think it's supposed to be part of a multifaceted approach to growing cycling can we start to hear a bit more out loud about how they are pushing for it please? Surely that's not too much to ask, right?