Today might be remembered as the day when the real cycling revolution in London started.
Today, “The Times” , one of the oldest newspapers of the world, kicked off an amazing and impressive campaign to make British cities safer for cyclists. “Safe our cyclists”, the newspaper urged on its front page.
This might be our “Stop de Kindermord” moment.
In the early 70s, in the Netherlands a movement called “Stop de Kindermord” (“Stop the child murder”) campaigned hard for a more cycling friendly road design in the Netherlands. Only these protests lead to an infrastructure that today is the envy of the world and taken for granted by most observers. (David Hembrow has an interesting post about the history of the movement and there is also a good video on Youtube on how the Dutch got their cycling infrastructure.)
“The Times” could not have been timed better. In the last 12 to 18 months, the public anger about the appalling road conditions for pedestrians in London has grown impressively.
Bloggers – first and foremost Danny Williams and Mark Ames – organised a number of demonstrations against car centric traffic priorities, poignant vigils remembering cyclists who died in traffic were held, and ghost bikes for killed cyclists were installed. A new group called “Bikes Alives” organises regular demonstrations at King’s Cross (the next one on 6 February). The topic was discussed in the London Assembly, and a growing number of articles in blogs and traditional news media address the issue.
Local newspapers like the Evening Standard and the Camden New Journal report meticulously about cycling related issues and the London Cycling Campaign works on a large initiative called “Go Dutch”.
On top of all this comes the impressive and vocal campaign by “The Times”, triggered by the accident of Times reporter Mary Bowers who was crushed by a lorry in November in front of the newspapers offices in Wapping and has been in a coma until today.
This campaign might be the tipping point.
The fact that “The Times” embarks on the topic proves that cycling has become mainstream. It’s not just the pastime of tree huggers or overly active lads in lycra. It’s an everyday activity that ordinary people do. It’s the fastest, cheapest and most environmentally friendly way to get around in central London. And we have the right to cycle without constant fear.
Due to car centric thinking at Transport for London, this activity is much more dangerous than it ought to be. A lot of things could be improved rather easily (here’s an example concerning Old Street roundabout, where a Boris biker was almost killed by a lorry yesterday). Some fundamental and expensive changes in road design are also necessary.
In an election year, the safety of cyclists has become one of the big issues in London. Until today, Transport for London and Boris Johnson have not taken the issue seriously. They have chosen to ignore the fact that planning priorities and road design are to blame for many deaths and injuries of cyclists.
This approach has become much, much harder to hold up.