'Budge Over for the Boris Bike'. August 2011
With Mayor Boris Johnson recently announcing the extension of the London Barclays cycle hire scheme, to West and South West boroughs within the next two years, bicycles are set to be even more present on our London roads. So far, due to the government’s new cycle initiatives the capital has seen 15% more cyclists. The presence of bikes lining the pavements has encouraged more people to use their own bicycles, replacing cars to make short journeys, in no time London’s public will be pedalling their way to a healthier, eco friendly future.
However, as idyllic as the bike riding benefits sound the reality is that cyclists are competing against motorists on overcrowded, narrow roads, racing against cars to beat the lights, whilst swerving in between buses and Lorries, as the few bicycle lanes that do exist are merely a painted strip on the busy roads.
The increased bike presence has forced motorists to become more alert resulting in less road fatalities, however the percentage of bike related accidents and fatalities is extremely high especially in comparison to the relatively small amount of cycle hours that are actually travelled. In a large percentage of these cases serious injury could of been avoided by simply wearing a helmet.
With the new scheme planning to expand to the boroughs of Wandsworth, Lambeth, Kensington, Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham it will not just be the capital but also inner city London which will be swarmed with cyclists. As young people deal with the increased cost of driving lessons and tests as well as the constant rise in bus and tube fare, it is no wonder cycling has become increasingly popular as a mode to travel around the city. However, as young people across London rear their 10 speed bikes in anticipation for the open road they are immersed into battle against the traffic that plagues the city or themselves risk the safety of pedestrians by illegally cycling on the pavement.
Recently whilst walking on the high street I was confronted with the reality of an increased bike existence as an un-helmeted cyclist rushed towards me, serving directly into my path, but luckily before I could collect myself and kick him off his bike he had veered off to traumatise other pedestrians.
The fact is there is no real system in place to enforce bicycles to stay off the pavement, or a way to punish those who leave pedestrians sweating in fear due to their split second close encounter. But then who can blame them, it just takes a clip from a wing mirror or the roaring of an engine to intimidate young or inexperienced cyclists from the road. With the expected major increase of London’s cyclists within the next few years neither the roads nor pavements will be comfortable to use until all major high roads are laced with separate bicycle lanes and cyclist motorist and pedestrians alike respect their own safety and the safety of others on London roads.